Do more for housing
I have read with interest the ongoing saga of the Aspen Music School and Festival’s and Aspen Country Day School’s plans to double the size of their campus in Castle Creek. While I am in favor of increasing our education facilities in the upper valley, as a member of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority board (APCHA), I have been very critical of the fact that their plans do not include housing for any of their projected new employees.
When the Music Associates of Aspen (MAA) originally presented the plan to the APCHA board, it contained an estimate of 39 new employees over the next 10 years. I see that number has been reduced to 18. Could this be because of the increasing costs of mitigation that the county is imposing? I welcome the condition set by the county commissioners to conduct an audit every two years. I hope they will adhere to that condition. However, this project, while a worthy one, raises the greater issue of what is the value of the county’s current housing mitigation program. As I understand it, there really isn’t one.
The county charges an impact fee and does not really require developers to provide housing for their new employees. With the exception of Rachel Richards, a longtime housing advocate, none of the other commissioners appear to have a great deal of interest in this problem.
With the exception of Stillwater, which was woefully under built, over priced and too long in the process, what have they built? Additionally, what has the county done in the last few years to help mitigate the housing shortage? While the city is considering increasing the mitigation percentages for development, the county is charging an $8,000-plus impact fee for every new employee generated. Thanks to Rachel, this fee for the MAA project will be significantly higher. But will $615,000 be enough to house even the 18 new employees the MAA says it will generate ($34,166.67 per employee)?
And here is the big question: Who will build this housing? Will the county commit to this responsibility? Or, will they leave it to the city to take up this burden? Obviously, they won’t be building this housing in Woody Creek, Snowmass or Redstone. I ask Dorothea why an educational institution should be exempt. They still will need to house their new teachers.
In sum, while I applaud the efforts the commissioners in taking the action they have, I urge them to develop adequate, real-life standards for addressing this issue in the future.
A. Ronald Erickson
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