County to rebid Stillwater project

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The planned Stillwater Ranch affordable housing project is slated to include the first Category 5 units to be constructed by local government, according to a pricing scheme reviewed by Pitkin County commissioners on Tuesday.

Construction of the long-delayed project is now likely to begin next spring, though Commissioner Jack Hatfield urged a fall start for the 13-unit project.

The earliest construction could begin is the last week of October or first week in November, according to County Manager Hilary Smith, warning commissioners that work over the winter season could add $100,000 or more to what’s estimated as a $4.5 million project.

“You’re running on a tight budget. I can’t stress enough how tight it is,” she said.

Staffers recommended an April 2004 ground breaking, with the project ready for occupancy roughly a year later.

“I don’t agree,” Hatfield said. “I think we should start it as soon as we have the bids. The community has waited for this project. It’s time to move forward.”

Ultimately, commissioners agreed to seek an alternate bid from contractors so they will have two prices to consider: one for a spring start and one for a fall start.

The cost of the units to the buyers won’t be finalized until they are nearly ready to sell, but a suggested spread of four one-bedroom units priced at Category 3; five three-bedroom units priced at Category 4 and four three-bedroom units priced at the new Category 5 met with resistance from Commissioner Mick Ireland. He urged commissioners to rework the mix to accommodate a couple of the less expensive Category 2 units.

“I would like to see some [Category] 2’s,” he said. “This project excludes quite a few people. I’m a believer in spreading this down as well as up.”

The Category 5 units would be a first. Aspen and Pitkin County recently added the higher-priced Categories 5, 6 and 7 to the previously existing Categories 1-4 of deed-restricted worker housing. Each category comes with income and asset limitations, as well as a maximum unit sale price. Buyers must be qualified local workers.

“This is the first time that a project would utilize one of the new categories,” Smith noted.

The Category 3 one-bedrooms would cost $135,200; the Category 4 three-bedrooms would be priced at $271,200; and the Category 5 three-bedrooms would be priced at $363,600.

With that mix, the sale of the units would generate $3.3 million to offset the cost of construction, leaving the county to pay an estimated $1.2 million subsidy from the fees it collects from developments that pay cash in lieu of providing worker housing.

A Category 2 one-bedroom would cost $87,800.

With Aspen planning to build 40 one-bedroom units priced at Categories 2 and 3, Hatfield argued against including any of the lower-priced units at Stillwater, especially given the ample size of the planned condos.

“I think we have an overabundance of [Category] 2. I think this product should have a higher category than 2,” he said.

The county bid out Stillwater last year and was poised to start construction, but put the project on hold while legal wrangling with neighbors who sued over the housing continued. Negotiations still have not produced a settlement.

Stillwater is slated for four-plus acres along the Roaring Fork River, east of Aspen, off Stillwater Road.

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