Housing goal: 715 more units
Elected and appointed officials for the city and county spent eight hours Monday talking about housing.They reached consensus on their end goal easily, but discussion on how to get there was a bumpier ride.An aggressive plan to have 715 affordable housing units approved by the end of next year was the unanimous vision of all the Aspen and Pitkin County advisory and elected officials.The City Council, county commissioners, housing board members, city and county planning and zoning commissioners, and planning staffers all agreed it is important to know definitively where the program stands by the end of 2000.Seven already proposed projects that will produce the 715 units will receive full attention on “parallel tracks,” officials agreed.And everyone at the daylong housing summit expressed a desire to build as many units of affordable housing as possible – as quickly as possible – in a responsible manner.The dissension among the ranks came in defining what is responsible.Some contend that prolonged discussions during the approval process lead to missed construction seasons, driving up costs.”We’re not in Florida. Things are either wrapped up by April or we lose nine months,” said Mayor Rachel Richards. “CDOT projects that construction costs are going up 9 percent every year and I don’t think the housing program can withstand that. We keep discussing and discussing and next thing you know, we’ve missed another building season.”But other argued that expediting the approval process may lead to building individual projects without regard for the impacts they will have on the community at large.”Our job is land-use, not just housing,” said Charlie Tarver, county P&Z member. “It bothers me greatly that we rarely make decisions on how they affect the rest of the valley.”Underlying the two positions is tension between the elected boards and the advisory boards on what the proper role of the P&Zs should be.Both city and county P&Z members voiced resentment on being left out of the preliminary discussions on housing projects, which in turn diminishes their role as a recommending body.In response, Mayor Richards reminded various P&Z members of their “advisory role.””If you’re not happy with that then get elected, be held responsible for every decision,” said Richards in frustration. “The public’s not looking for perfection. They’re saying, `I’m dying for housing.’ “
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A recent survey of Aspen residents shows that people are happy here, feel safe but are financially insecure.