Family planning in works at Burlingame
Burlingame Ranch could end up looking a lot like Aspen’s West End, except with families actually living in the homes.
The giant affordable housing project, which is now in the planning stages, began to take shape Tuesday in a three-hour meeting of the community task force assigned to design the project.
Armed with data on the existing housing stock and the people who live in affordable housing or want to, the task force grappled with which segments of the local work force to house at Burlingame. They were limited only by the site – 25 acres of sage brush west of town, and a maximum density of 225 units.
Members broke up into three groups to debate the need for sale vs. rental housing, studios and one-bedrooms vs. two- and three-bedroom family units, townhomes vs. multifamily buildings, and hot tubs and washing machines vs. garages and storage space.
With Aspen pinning its hopes on answering a large chunk of its affordable housing needs at Burlingame, coming up with the right mix is critical, said Jay Leavitt, director of development for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.
“In my opinion, there’s no way we’re going to build 225 single-family units on this site. On the other hand, there’s no way we’re going to build 225 studios,” he said. “Somewhere, there’s a happy medium. We don’t want to guess.”
One discussion group explored a layout for the project duplicating Aspen’s original townsite, with alleyways, streets and flexible zoning to allow for an eclectic mix of unit types.
“The framework works – we’re living in the center of it,” said Denis Murray, advocating the approach.
All three groups favored mostly sale units, making them 60 or 70 percent of the project. There was plenty of support for an all-sale project, as well, or letting employers buy units and rent them out.
“I think rental is part of diversity. I think that’s a legitimate need,” argued member Jamie Knowlton.
Couples with children, and single adults with children ranked consistently high when task force members were asked to prioritize the target residents for Burlingame housing. Couples without children and single adults were a slightly lesser priority, though statistical data suggests singles make up a large percentage of the individuals who hope to win a lottery to buy housing.
Couples who qualify to bid on two- and three-bedroom units have much greater odds of winning than single residents who bid time and time again on the one-bedroom units that are in far greater demand, noted Housing Board member Marcia Goshorn.
Nonetheless, two- and three-bedroom units for families should get the lion’s share of the Burlingame allotment, the group generally agreed, with a smaller number of one-bedrooms in the mix.
Four-bedroom units had virtually no support, and studios weren’t high on the list, either.
“Personally, I don’t know that studios are our best bet. At least with a one-bedroom, you can get a couple in there, or a couple with a kid if you need to,” said Julie Ann Woods, the city’s head planner.
At another table, Mayor Rachel Richards was ready to nix studios, too.
“People buy studios because than can’t buy one-bedrooms, not because they want studios,” she said. “Nobody wants to eat in their bedroom.”
When it came to amenities, storage and private porches or yards received support. So did a community clubhouse and laundry hookups or, for rental units, communal laundry facilities. Taxpayer-supported hot tubs got a cool reception.
Two discussion groups agreed carriage houses above garages would be an ideal element of the neighborhood, but then failed to rank garages at all as they prioritized possible amenities.
Burlingame Ranch, to be located between the Maroon Creek Club and Aspen Airport Business Center, is expected to remain in the planning stage for a year. The task force, which began meeting in November, will take a proposal directly to the City Council through a process established for city projects that bypasses review by individual boards and commissions. Instead, those boards plus other entities with an interest in the project are represented on the task force.
Burlingame Ranch is part of a public/private development approved by voters last year. In addition to the affordable housing, the project will include 12 free-market homes on the neighboring Zoline ranch. About 170 acres will be preserved as open space on the Burlingame and Zoline parcels.
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Aspen School District’s younger students will return to class next week, but that’s not the case for those in the seventh through 12th grade, who will continue to take courses from home.