Housing board backs housing at Bass Park | AspenTimes.com

Housing board backs housing at Bass Park

In a gesture of civility toward the Aspen City Council, the housing board agreed Wednesday to table a resolution recommending that affordable housing be built on Bass Park.

The move came at the urging of housing board member and City Councilman Tom McCabe.

While all five housing board members voiced support for passing the resolution, McCabe included, he said passing the resolution last night could have “backed City Council into a political corner.”

The proposed resolution – which supports affordable housing construction on the entire Bass Park site – will be revisited at the board’s Jan. 19 meeting. It should win easy approval then, if board members vote according to sentiments expressed last night.

According to McCabe, the City Council will address the Bass Park matter in early January during a work session. The council has been pressured by factions who think the site is appropriate for housing and those who wish to see the neighborhood park remain undeveloped.

McCabe explained of his request to the housing board to delay action: “There are other things on the table that this may effect … specifically the Burlingame project – where it is and what shape it takes. We’re also trying to get a sense for several of the things that are in progress. There’s the potential for a heck of a lot more housing out there.”

Addressing concerns that the park may be preserved with county open-space funds, housing board member and Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland said “don’t bet on it.” That would require the Open Space and Trails Board to first propose the purchase, with approval from county commissioners.

Despite their apparent desire to see the city park used for affordable housing, several housing board members voiced concern that the cost of building affordable housing at the site might be prohibitive.

“The big question is the money,” said board member Tim Semrau. He said prospective plans for a 24-bedroom affordable housing project at Bass Park would require a hefty $5.5 million government subsidy.

“If we as a board feel this is an appropriate venture, then let’s go forward with it … or else we should discuss cheaper housing alternatives on the site,” he said.

Board member Bob Helmus urged his colleagues to move forwardly swiftly, whatever their wishes.

“I’ve been critical of the amount of money that land costs, but land is not getting any cheaper,” Helmus said. “By delaying this, it’s only going to get more expensive.”

The city of Aspen purchased Bass Park, located at the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Monarch Street, almost a year ago for $3.4 million. The money came almost entirely from the city’s housing and day-care fund. Only $100,000 of the purchase price came from the city’s open-space fund.

In November, voters rejected four separate ballot questions concerning the fate of the park. Voters vetoed preserving Bass Park as a park, building affordable housing on half the park or the entire site, and selling the land to a private developer.

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