`Infill’ housing project gets a nod from the City Council | AspenTimes.com

`Infill’ housing project gets a nod from the City Council

The concept of developing affordable housing in Aspen’s commercial zones – or “infill housing” – has been an idea much discussed in the past year.

And now a private landowner has stepped up to the plate with a proposal.

But it appears there are several obstacles to building affordable housing between the new Community Banks of Aspen and the Rio Grande parking garage.

One such obstacle is that Aspen’s land-use code doesn’t allow that type of development on the property.

“From a land-use point of view, we have no qualms about it. It’s a good idea in a great location,” said Julie Ann Woods, Aspen’s community development director. “The council made it clear they support [the concept.] … It’s just finding the right tools or mechanism to make that happen.”

At Monday’s City Council work session, landowner Stoney Davis presented a preliminary plan to build six deed-restricted rental units in the parking lot behind the bank on Mill Street. Situated on the same lot as the Community Bank, the proposed site is zoned for commercial use.

For Davis, who bought the land 25 years ago, putting affordable housing on the lot is something he believes would be a boon to everyone involved.

“This is about doing something that makes just makes sense. Employees get housing and we also get the full value of the property,” Davis said.

The proposal would create much-needed housing without creating sprawl or the need for transportation. Also, because the site is currently a parking lot, it would sidestep the frequent battle between open space and housing advocates.

And, said Davis, the site comes with the added attribute of being bought and paid for years ago.

“The unique thing about affordable housing here is that basically the land is free and clear,” Davis said. “These days the cost of land usually makes affordable housing not very affordable to build. I mean what did they pay for Bass Park? Three million?”

Since the proposed site shares its lot with Community Bank and the bank building has used the maximum allowable building space, splitting off the parking lot for affordable housing would be no simple task.

Following council’s directive to explore code amendment options, the city planning staff will brainstorm possible amendments this week.

The proposal would have to go through the standard application process. But on Monday council members unanimously supported the notion of encouraging and facilitating “infill” projects that would create affordable housing in commercial districts.

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