Housing Board gives nod to plan for units at Pitkin Iron
The Pitkin Iron affordable housing project cleared its secondhurdle in the approval process Wednesday, winning support fromthe Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Board.The board recommended approval of the 15-unit Woody Creek project,but not without tacking on a few provisions. The Woody Creek Caucushas already given its nod to the project.S and S Development won the right to build the project after thecounty sought proposals from private developers to put housingon the county-owned parcel. A contract between S and S and thecounty established the basic parameters for the project, but itmust still go through the usual approval process.As conditions of its approval, the Housing Board as the developerto further pursue the addition of caretaker units in the project,called for a requirement that all 36 bedrooms in the project beoccupied and asked S and S to disclose its final costs in buildingthe complex.Board members stressed their desire set an example for futurepublic/private endeavors by making the financial aspects of theproject public.”If you accept the challenge, it’s an opportunity to demonstratewhy public/private partnerships work,” said County CommissionerShellie Harper, who was sitting in for board member Mick Ireland,also a commissioner. “You’re our poster boy if you can pull thisoff,” she told Tim Semrau of S and S.For the most part, board members had no problem with the specificsof the project, which features a broad mix of units and rangeof affordability. The current design includes a mix of one- tofour-bedroom units that would be sold at prices affordable toarea employees in three separate income brackets. Pitkin Iron will also have four free-market lots.But considering S and S will get the property for $1.4 million- the same price the county paid for it almost 10 years ago -board chairman Frank Peters suggested that perhaps more concessionsfrom the developer were in order.”For a piece of land the county held and paid for a long timeago, I just want to be sure the value we’re getting is for themoney we’re giving,” Peters said. One suggestion from Peters was lowering some of the unit saleprices, since preliminary budgets estimate a profit of about $700,000for S and S Development. Putting all the affordable units into the general housing lotteryrather than reserving five for employees who work on the project- a stipulation in the contract with the county – was also suggested.”It shouldn’t make a penny’s worth of difference to develop, butwould make a big difference to five people in the lottery,” Peterssaid.Peters’ lottery proposal, however, was rejected by fellow boardmembers as something that could act as a disincentive to futurepublic/private housing ventures.”If we want any more public/private partnerships, we can’t keepchanging the rules midstream,” said board member Jackie Kasabach.”It seems to me the contract is negotiated and it’s unfair atthis point to say I don’t like the negotiations.”The Pitkin Iron project must still go to the county Planning andZoning Commission and then Board of County Commissioners for finalapproval. Construction could begin as early as July.
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