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For rent: spacious home, no parking

Janet Urquhart

Aspen and Pitkin County could afford to build more housing for workers if they didn’t have to spend so much money on parking spaces.

That, at least, is the premise behind a study of potential remote parking lots where some future residents of affordable housing may end up storing their SUVs and junkers.

Planning consultant Stan Clauson is preparing a questionnaire to quiz local workers on how willing they would be to park their cars considerably farther away than the front curb. The effort produced some dubious public officials at a joint meeting of the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.

“People want their car where their house is,” said Commissioner Shellie Roy. “Frankly, I don’t know why we’re going to spend money on a questionnaire when I know the answer.”

City Councilman Tony Hershey expressed doubt that remote parking can work, citing the Marolt housing project as “a complete disaster.” The housing project was designed to encourage auto-free residency. It doesn’t have sufficient parking for the number of units there and residents must pay to park. Instead, a good share of them park on the access road and in nearby lots, creating problems.

“There isn’t one person at the table whose car isn’t very close to their home,” Hershey said. “It’s like having a kitchen.”

“As long as we’re not willing to up the ante on enforcement, it won’t work,” Councilman Tom McCabe agreed.

The situation at Marolt is being analyzed as part of the study, Clauson said. There are residents there who don’t use their vehicles regularly, but they want a remote storage spot they feel is secure, he said.

Gauging people’s willingness to use a remote parking location is critical if the city is to have any real success with “infill housing” – small projects tucked here and there in town, added city planner Chris Bendon.

“With infill housing, one of the toughest things you have to address is where do you put the parking,” Bendon said. “We’re trying to get a realistic sense of what the demand might be – how willing are people to use a remote facility?

“Would people be willing to seek a unit in a lottery if it didn’t have on-site parking or if it only had one space?” he said.

“If we don’t have to provide for automobiles . we can get more bang for the buck in affordable housing,” Clauson said.

Providing a spot per housing unit and allowing residents who are willing to use remote parking to sell their spot to those who insist on having vehicles close at hand might provide the incentive to make remote parking work, mused Commissioner Mick Ireland.

Officials brainstormed on questions they’d like answered in the survey and directed Clauson to provide them with a draft of the questionnaire before it is distributed.

The questionnaire will go to some residents of existing affordable housing projects and be distributed to those on the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s wait list for housing. The survey will also be accessible through a link from the Housing Authority’s Web site, Clauson said.

Clauson is also studying potential sites for remote parking and will develop estimates of the cost of developing those facilities. The list includes some of the “usual suspects” – Buttermilk and the airport, for example – plus some private properties that haven’t been contemplated before, he said.

The parking study is scheduled to be complete by mid-March, Clauson said.


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