MAA housing a tough call for city
The Aspen City Council will be facing some thorny issues tonight, when it considers a proposal to build seasonal housing across Highway 82 from Buttermilk.At tonight’s special meeting to consider the Music Associates of Aspen’s proposal to build the project on the city’s property at Burlingame Ranch, the council will have to factor in a 5-2 recommendation for denial from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.The P&Z recommendation reverses its recommendation for approval made last fall, when conceptual designs for the project were given the nod by a two-vote majority.The City Council will face the same questions about the project’s location, design, accessibility to transit and proximity to the airport that led the planning commissioners to recommend the project be rejected.The current plan calls for 101 two-bedroom units, each of 480 square feet. The beds would be run by the MAA and occupied by music students in the summer; the Housing Authority would manage the property the rest of the year, renting the apartments on a seasonal basis, much in the same way the Marolt housing units are leased.City Planner Chris Bendon said the primary objection voiced by planning commissioners last week was location. “They didn’t like it being so close to the airport, and they didn’t like it being so far from town,” he said.P&Z members were concerned with noise coming from the airport. Bendon recalled that the commissioners focused on the decibel level during takeoffs and landings, rejecting assurances that the average decibel level, measured by the hour or the day, was within acceptable limits.Bendon noted the average decibel levels at the Burlingame site are the same as those of the adjacent employee housing units owned by the Maroon Creek Club. However, at least one P&Z member pointed out that the location may jeopardize future expansion of the airport runway, because expansion would cause noise levels in the proposed housing to exceed federal standards.Transit was another problem for the P&Z. It objected to the fact that residents would be required to cross the highway without the benefit of a traffic signal to reach upvalley buses.In its recommendation for approval, the city planning department suggested running a shuttle between the housing complex and town run on regular basis until the Colorado Department of Transportation installs a traffic light at Buttermilk, but the planning commissioners weren’t satisfied.The P&Z was also concerned that the units were not being built to standards set by the Housing Authority. “We do want the units built,” said member Tim Mooney. “We just don’t want inadequate units built in the wrong place.”Bendon confirmed that the units did not meet all the criteria in the housing guidelines, but pointed out that the design was superior to similar seasonal projects around town. Every unit has two bedrooms, assuring a measure of privacy for each occupant that does not exist at Marolt.If the proposal gets the nod from the City Council tonight, a final reading and public hearing is scheduled for the council’s June 28 regular meeting.
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