Many Voices speaks out against Burlingame plan |

Many Voices speaks out against Burlingame plan

Janet Urquhart

A group of longtime locals has organized to speak out against a proposed affordable/free-market housing project on the Burlingame and Zoline properties, west of Aspen.

The group, calling itself Many Voices, launched its campaign Wednesday to defeat a proposed development deal between the city of Aspen and the Zolines that hinges on voter approval of a preannexation agreement in the Aug. 8 election.

Representatives of the coalition did everything but chant “bad idea, bad idea” as they outlined their objections to the preannexation deal at a press conference yesterday.

Private planning consultant Jamie Knowlton, City Councilman Terry Paulson, longtime Maroon Creek property owner Connie Harvey and her son Mark, and political gadfly Nick DeWolf took turns denouncing the development. They hammered on a host of perceived flaws with the plan.

The development constitutes urban sprawl that will eat up irreplaceable open space and wildlife habitat, generate traffic and open a Pandora’s Box of sprawl along the Highway 82 corridor, according to Many Voices.

In short, “it’s a bad plan and it’s dumb planning,” said Mark Harvey.

The Burlingame deal, struck by the city and the Zolines behind closed doors, calls for 225 affordable housing units on five acres of the city-owned Burlingame Ranch. The Zolines will hand over 20 adjacent acres in exchange for the right to develop 12 free-market homes of up to 10,000 square feet on their land, according to the deal.

The homes are limited to 7,500 square feet under the agreement, but can be boosted by 2,500 square feet with the purchase of a transferable development right. TDRs preserve backcountry properties through the transfer of development rights from rural to urban parcels.

The homes must also include an accessory dwelling unit, or worker apartment, which can be eliminated with the purchase of another TDR.

In addition, the Zolines retain the right to four existing homesites on their ranch and may build a cabin for the family’s use along Maroon Creek. A deed-restricted ranch hand’s residence would be built near the Burlingame housing.

The plan calls for a conservation easement to protect about 170 acres owned by the city and the Zolines. Aspen bought the 178-acre Burlingame parcel in 1997; the adjacent Zoline parcel is a 142-acre working ranch. Both properties are located between Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River, with Maroon Creek to the east and the Aspen Airport Business Center to the west.

“The city is becoming an unwitting partner in urban sprawl, ” said Mark Harvey. “I dare say, if a private developer proposed this, he or she would be laughed out of City Hall.”

“The community for 30 years has said no to development outside the core along Highway 82,” added Knowlton. “If you let it start there, there’s no way to stop it.”

Farther downvalley, however, developer John McBride’s North 40 affordable housing project is being constructed next to his Aspen Airport Business Center. Knowlton was a consultant on North 40. McBride, added Knowlton, is among the members of Many Voices.

The need for housing is as compelling a justification for Burlingame as the need for a business/industrial center was for the AABC, argued Mayor Rachel Richards. The AABC is several miles from Aspen proper.

“It’s an interesting perception, that you could be a stone’s throw from the Buttermilk ski area and immediately adjacent to the Maroon Creek Club and closer to town than the Aspen Airport Business Center and call it sprawl,” Richards said.

DeWolf decried the Burlingame plan as completely out of character with Aspen. He likened the proposal to dumping 200 homes in a cow pasture and calling it a neighborhood.

“I’d vastly rather annex Carbondale or Basalt than this cow pasture,” he said.

Councilman Paulson questioned the need to hatch the plan in closed meetings, suggesting public input would have helped produce a better proposal.

“This project could be better,” he said. “We don’t have to do this.”

Connie Harvey, noting the separation of the free-market “starter castles,” which will stretch out along Maroon Creek, from the affordable housing by the ranch’s irrigated pastures, called the worker housing a “ghetto.”

“They’re going to put the riffraff over there and the rich folk over here,” she said.

“They think that they have a clustered project,” agreed Paulson. “If you look at it, it’s a division between the rich and the poor.”

While the group made it clear they don’t fault the city’s intentions, members said the city should be looking instead at putting housing in town – by buying lodges for conversion to housing, squeezing “infill” housing into town and developing the U.S. Forest Service parcel on Seventh Street. That property is the subject of talks with the feds.

“This is not an anti-affordable housing committee. This is a try-to-save-Aspen-and-its-character committee,” Knowlton stressed.

Group members wavered on whether any housing would be acceptable on the Burlingame land. “We’re definitely opposed to this particular plan,” Knowlton said.

“There’s always the there’s-a-better-location-over-here type of argument,” countered Richards. “The other here is mythical. It always vanishes.”

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