Don’t let the mayor fumble |

Don’t let the mayor fumble

Recently the mayor and Councilperson Paulson have decided to abandon the Burlingame Ranch project. The mayor’s explanation dealt with her perceived costs of completing the project, yet neglected to state the cost of abandoning the project.-$6 million for the contractually committed infrastructure to the Zoline’s free-market homes, 12 large homes along Maroon Creek to be built no matter what the city does.-$2 million cost of the land.-$500,000 for the AVLT land.-$15 million cost of building somewhere else the 150 bedrooms the city has contractually agreed to provide as the Zoline’s housing mitigation. The current average cost of a mitigation bedroom subsidy is well over $100,000.-$23,500,000 is the total cost of walking away from a project we already voted on, spent years on planning, is finally financially viable and ready to proceed. Given the housing fund has about $14 million in it, this move effectively represents a gutting of the program for a very long time.What reasons justify this turnaround on the housing program?Councilperson Paulson said his friends with free-market rental housing have been forced to lower rents lately, and if we use any more vacant land for housing, we will lose our tourist base and have no need for employees anyway.Mayor Klanderud states she has changed her mind on the basis of cost, sprawl, environmental degradation and off-site impacts. The facts are Burlingame Ranch, after several years of hard work by the prior council and the obtaining of the adjoining AVLT land, is today, by far, the most cost-effective project we will ever find.Its location two miles from town is sprawl to some and a bike ride to others, and it’s located in an area with no wildlife concerns per state report. The off-site impacts do affect the environment; depending on your viewpoint, getting people off the 82 commute is the most positive help to the environment we can do.Councilperson Torre has decided to delay his Burlingame decision until early 2004 in hopes of a “superior site to be named later,” effectively delaying any housing for another year. The mayor also alludes to “investigating other, perhaps better, locations to provide significant housing.”They both fail to account for the 150 bedrooms of housing mitigation contractually agreed to the Zoline Family for the Burlingame ranch site. Any new site would have to build those homes first as mitigation, and any additional units would then count toward easing our housing needs in the general pool.There are no local sites that could accommodate anything close to the number of units approved at Burlingame Ranch, unless you look in Silt or Rifle. Any other site in the Aspen area would costs tens of millions of dollars on top of the loss taken at Burlingame, take years for approvals, and would face the same anti-affordable group. The “site to be named later” is simply a distraction from the real issue of forfeiting the project ready to go today.After years, the city is poised to finally accomplish most of the goals identified in our Community Plan, ratified by City Council vote, and funded by the housing tax. It is our one great chance to actually get close to our stated housing goals, and provide quality housing to those who need it. After 20 years of trying, don’t let this City Council fumble so close to the goal line.Tim SemrauAspen City Council

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