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Housing board: No bending rules on school district units

Sarah S. Chung

The Aspen School District’s request to bend the housing rules for eight new units to be set aside for teachers got a thumbs down from the housing board last night.

The housing board swiftly and uniformly rejected the district’s request for more control of the eight units that are assigned for district employees in the Moore family subdivision.

“This goes against everything the housing policy stands for,” said board member Bob Helmus. “This is the first foot in the door to blow the whole program out of the water.”

The school board is seeking four exemptions to the rules governing employee housing.

First, the district wants to regain control of a Moore unit if an employee who worked for less than 10 years with the district, quit or retired. Second, the district asked for a waiver of the minimum occupancy requirement for the three- and four-bedroom units. Third, a request was made to remove the appreciation caps from the Resident Occupied, or RO, units. And finally, the school board wants the RO units to be sold at no more than Category 4 sale prices.

Glenn Horn, representing the school board, told the housing board that the 10-year provision was the “most significant change – the one the [school] board’s most concerned about.”

But housing board members made it clear they believe giving the district the right of first refusal on the eight units is concession enough.

“I don’t want to create any vestige of indentured servitude,” said housing board member Tim Semrau.

Helmus empathized with the school district’s dilemma – that the employees most likely to obtain a Moore unit are tenured teachers who might retire in the next several years. But the setting aside of eight units for the district is above and beyond the consideration given to any other organization, noted Helmus.

“When the lottery takes place, we’re going to see 400 applications from Grand Junction to Independence Pass. The interest is going to be astronomical,” Helmus predicted.

The final decision on the school district’s exemption requests will be made by the City Council, since the Moore site was annexed by the city in March. City planners are seeking recommendations from both the housing board and county commissioners just the same.

Last week, commissioners recommended approval of all the requested exemptions, except regarding the RO appreciation caps.

The Moore subdivision is slated for development on property adjacent to the school campus. It includes 40 free-market lots and 31 deed-restricted, single-family homes. Of the employee housing, eight units will go to the school district, three are set aside for hospital employees, and two will go to members of the Moore family. Eighteen units will go into the general lottery.


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