It’s all about housing, child care and environment for Aspen electeds |

It’s all about housing, child care and environment for Aspen electeds

Aspen City Council’s top three goals of increasing the number of affordable housing units and child care spaces, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are moving forward with a small army of foot soldiers in City Hall advancing dozens of initiatives related to elected officials’ efforts.

Council members received an update during a work session Tuesday on where staff is at with each of the goals, what’s been accomplished, what’s advancing and what’s delayed.

The city’s building efforts in bringing over 350 units to the market are advancing, albeit slowly.

The city announced last week that it will delay the sales of 79 deed-restricted units at the third and final phase of its Burlingame Ranch subdivision across from Buttermilk.

The city has hired engineering firms to inspect the quality of the units to ensure they meet expectations, said Scott Miller, the city’s public works director.

He told council they will be available either the first or second quarter of 2023 rather than this fall.

Miller also told council that under the effort of purchasing existing units, council may want to consider holding some Burlingame units back from the at-large community lottery.

“What we are working on now is looking at future opportunities to purchase properties, and we will be coming to you to discuss buying a number of units at Burlingame 3,” he said, adding that the city recently bought two free-market units to house municipal government workers and continues to work with a real estate broker to find more properties and land opportunities. “We see the properties (at Burlingame) that we developed as probably the best value we can give council right now for providing units, so we will be here to talk to you about that in a week.”

The city-owned Lumberyard site across from the airport that has 277 units planned is through 100% schematic design, and a public hearing land-use process is anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2023.

Converting the old Mountain Rescue Aspen cabin on Main Street to affordable housing also is in the works, and a plan will be presented to council later this year, Miller said.

On the policy side, Community Development Director Phillip Supino updated council on numerous land-use code changes and development mitigation calculations that will lead to more affordable housing.

“Our to-do list is, I think, meaningful and robust,” he said.

Enforcing the rules and focusing on compliance within the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, which manages over 3,100 deed-restricted units, is gaining traction with the public, added Assistant City Manager Diane Foster.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she would like the city to investigate how many jobs there are in Pitkin County, as well as the total number of affordable housing units.

“The reason I feel this, is it will affect our decisions on the Entrance to Aspen and parking and transportation issues and the commuting workforce, but it also will really answer some questions about people expecting APCHA now to have entirely re-created the workforce we need,” she said.

City Manager Sara Ott said discussions about that effort are beginning.

“This is a huge lift, but I think it’s an important one for us to be able to move forward,” she said.

On the child care front, the city is advancing its effort to build a new facility in the third phase of Burlingame Ranch, as well as increasing funding for recruiting and retaining early learning teachers.

Kids First Director Shirley Ritter said she’s still working with potential providers for an infant room at the Colorado Mountain College Aspen campus and four pre-kindergarten rooms at the city-owned Yellow Brick building.

She’s also said her department is working with state and regional partners to increase capacity.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a goal that runs for two years until July 2023, but city officials recognize that they will not achieve the scientific necessity of a 63% reduction until 2030 and zero carbon by 2050.

But there are initiatives that are expected to become ordinances in the coming year, noted CJ Oliver, the city’s environmental health and sustainability director.

That includes waste reduction, specifically keeping organic waste out of the landfill, as well as limiting construction and demolition debris and adopting an ordinance on building performance standards.

It’s all part of the city’s climate action plan, which is a living document, Oliver said.

“Another big thing we are working on with the climate action plan update is to make sure that our work is centered in equitable community engagement,” he said. “That is something that our partners are getting a lot of work on and is something that we think is really critical to the success of these programs moving.”