Housing initiative fight out of steam? | AspenTimes.com

Housing initiative fight out of steam?

Janet Urquhart

Burlingame opponents who hoped to put new controls on Aspen’s ability to develop worker housing are apparently ready to drop that fight.Tomorrow is the deadline to appeal a ruling that invalidated a pair of initiative petitions brought forward by former Pitkin County Commissioners Joe Edwards and Dwight Shellman. The initiatives were declared invalid by a hearing officer last month, triggering a 30-day period in which to appeal that decision in court.Shellman, though he wasn’t one of the two official sponsors of the initiatives, predicted this week that the measures would be dropped.”I’m not interested in pursuing the initiatives,” he said Tuesday night, after election results had been tallied and the voters’ desire to see Burlingame move forward was clear.Immediately after the initiatives were invalidated, Shellman vowed an appeal to district court. He later softened that stance.An appeal, however, would likely come from either Edwards or former Mayor Bill Stirling, the formal sponsors or “initiators” of the petitions. Edwards has not returned calls this week, but Shellman said he does not believe Edwards wants to spend any more time on the matter.Stirling confirmed he is willing to let the petitions drop.”Personally, I have no interest in pursuing them any further,” he said.Nonetheless, collecting enough signatures to bring the initiatives forward was a worthy exercise, Stirling contends. The measures, along with Tuesday’s referendum on Burlingame, generated plenty of debate – about housing in general and Burlingame specifically. The initiatives raised questions about the city’s development of worker housing that may receive consideration as the City Council makes future decisions, he said.Some arguments from Burlingame opponents – that much of the planned housing is too expensive, for example – have already been acknowledged. The council has agreed to look at dropping some of the unit prices, Stirling noted.Tuesday’s referendum approved the annexation of land that includes the housing site for Burlingame.The two initiatives, which Shellman said were spurred by the city’s actions in pursuing Burlingame, never made it onto the ballot, though that was the intent. They were rejected by a hearing officer in response to protests filed by J.E. DeVilbiss, who was later joined in the protests by Frank Peters.The petitions aimed to place new restrictions on the city’s development of housing. One measure sought to prohibit annexation or preannexation agreements of the type that established the boundaries for Burlingame. The other demanded a public vote on “major” affordable housing projects.DeVilbiss, who was elected to the City Council in Tuesday’s balloting, blasted the petitions as attempts to destroy the city’s worker housing program through Draconian regulation.”I think a lot of the good citizens of Aspen didn’t know what they were signing,” he said during his campaign.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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