It’s decision time at Aspen’s Burlingame |

It’s decision time at Aspen’s Burlingame

ASPEN ” Homeowners at Burlingame Ranch appear reluctant to allow more affordable housing units to be built in their neighborhood ” even with a host of incentives designed to improve their quality of lives.

Dozens of homeowners met with the Aspen City Council on Tuesday to discuss concessions offered by the government in exchange for their vote to increase the density at the development, located across from Buttermilk on the outskirts of town.

The majority of Aspen voters last fall approved developing up to 300 units at Burlingame rather than the originally envisioned 236, after all three phases are complete. To increase the density, however, the city must first get unanimous approval from the 84 phase one homeowners.

In exchange for hiking the project’s density, the city has offered to eliminate a $60 per month transit fee from homeowners’ assessments. The fee helps pay for bus service, a vehicle for a car-share program and cab rides. The city also is willing to forgive $65,000 in debt owed to the city in transit fees, which are currently being deferred, as well as increase the available parking from 1.67 spaces per unit to two spaces per unit, and turn the parking program over to the homeowners’ association.

In addition, the city government is willing to allow dogs in the development, as long as it’s OK with the open space and trails board and adjacent landowners.

City officials have proposed 272 units at Burlingame in an effort to reduce costs and maximize land that’s ready for development.

All of the city’s offers would be withdrawn if the increased density proposal is unsuccessful. Some homeowners consider the offer blackmail. But city officials maintain it’s part of deal-making.

“We’re not giving them the goodies without something in exchange … it’s not how negotiations work,” Assistant City Manager Barry Crook said on Monday. “We have agreed to 17 of the 21 things they’ve asked for.”

Homeowners told the council on Tuesday that pushing more density on them creates livability issues for those who currently live there and residents who will live at Burlingame in the future.

They question whether it’s appropriate that the yet-to-be built units should be smaller than what is already at Burlingame, and how more people will impact traffic and roads.

Some homeowners have little faith that the city will live up to its promises since officials have failed to respond to simple requests like lowering the speed limit on Forge Road leading into the neighborhood.

There also are questions about the government’s ability to fulfill the promises made at the outset, since the city was the developer of the project and construction quality issues have not yet been fully addressed.

Homeowners said they are reluctant to vote on more units at Burlingame without seeing any plans, including the design of the new buildings and how they will be configured into the landscape.

The existing HOA declarations require a 100 percent vote of approval from homeowners to increase the project’s density. Knowing that unanimous consent is unlikely, city officials are prepared to amend the declarations to allow for a two-thirds approval, which is permitted under state law. That could happen in the event that less than 100 percent of the homeowners agree to the city’s proposal but more than two-thirds do agree.

If the density vote fails, 236 units will be built at Burlingame. But the city is reserving 5.2 acres on the property in case future councils and the Burlingame HOA decide to build more in the neighborhood.

That means 236 units would be built on less land than previously proposed, and makes phases two and three more dense than the original scheme.

City officials and the three-member HOA board have been in negotiations for months about the outstanding issues at Burlingame, as well as the concessions the city is making.

The council is giving the homeowners 30 days to vote on the density issue. During that time, two open houses will occur as a form of educational outreach for residents, and specific voting procedures will be adopted.

City officials want to take advantage of low construction costs and begin site planning this summer. Aspen voters could be asked in November to approve a multimillion-dollar bond to pay for phases two and three at Burlingame Ranch.

Mayor Mick Ireland said he has fought hard for the past nine years to get Burlingame developed, both politically and personally. He asked the homeowners on Tuesday whether they will make sacrifices to house an additional 36 families who desperately need an affordable place to live.

“The fate of those families [is] in your hands, not ours,” he said. “I hope you find it in your hearts to make a sacrifice, but that’s your choice and I bear no resentment or a hold a grudge if you don’t.”

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