Moore open space a good site for housing? |

Moore open space a good site for housing?

John Colson

Aspen may be headed for another electoral face-off pitting thedesire for open spaces against the need for affordable homes forthe working class.This time, the debate may well center on a 65-acre parcel of landthat stretches south and west from the intersection of MaroonCreek Road and Highway 82, known as the Moore open space.The land was bought by the County Open Space and Trails Boardin 1992, for $3 million, and use of the land for anything otherthan open space would require approval from the voters.At a meeting Wednesday of the “oversight committee” that is workingon revisions to the Aspen Area Community Plan, participants discussedthe conflict between open spaces and affordable housing. Bothrepresent long-held and important values for local voters andgovernments.At the meeting, the Moore open space was mentioned numerous timesas the possible site for as many as 150 to 200 homes for localworkers, although it was emphasized that the numbers, and eventhe discussion, are only theoretical at this point.Many further discussions are planned before local elected officialswill get their first look at a revised AACP. Long-range plannerStephanie Millar said the first draft of the plan is supposedto be finished in early April.Not the first timeThe last fight over a change in use of dedicated open space alsoinvolved the Moore land.In 1997, the county and the Colorado Department of Transportationjoined forces in what open space board members called a “friendlycondemnation” of 1.5 acres of the Moore open space for use asa transit center at the intersection of Maroon Creek Road andHighway 82.In return, as required under the county’s Home Rule Charter, theopen space board took possession of 31 acres at Brush Creek Roadand Highway 82, recently acquired from Wally Mills.Open space board member Hawk Greenway said Wednesday afternoonthat the board would fight any move to put affordable housingon the Moore land.”We philosophically feel it’s important to have open space inclose proximity to the population center,” he said of the board’sgeneral position on the issue.”We’re sensitive to the affordable housing problem,” he added,”but our mandate is really narrow. It’s open space and trails.”The participants at Wednesday’s meeting were talking in generalabout how local governments should proceed in directing whereaffordable housing can be built in the upper Roaring Fork Valley,and how many units should be built.Planning consultant Mark Johnson said that, after reviewing localzoning regulations and land-use priorities, he concluded thereis room for between 700 and 1,000 such homes in the upper valleyunless the rules are changed.Local governments have identified a number of sites for futureaffordable housing projects. Those outside the city limits includethe Burlingame Ranch parcel near the Aspen Airport Business Centerand the Aspen Mass parcel near the Brush Creek intersection withHighway 82.At Wednesday’s meeting, however, some participants were not happywith those sites.Pitkin County Commissioner Leslie Lamont, speaking for a groupof participants, suggested the Burlingame parcel be placed ina “reserved” category for possible future use as a housing site,while planners look at other potential sites that are closer toAspen.”Don’t go to the easy spots first,” she said, suggesting the Mooreopen space and the Municipal Golf Course as potential developmentlands. “That makes some sense,” agreed committee member Jennifer Craig,speaking for another group of citizen planners in reference tothe golf course land.Use of the golf course for affordable housing has come up in recentdiscussions, either in tandem with putting the municipal golfcourse somewhere else or “realigning” the holes at the existingcourse to create space for affordable housing.Craig also said her group supported the idea of looking into developmenton part of the Moore open space, and putting Burlingame into areserve category.Some, however, were not happy with the idea of putting outlyingproperties into a “reserved” category.”I think we need to decide, what is the number?” declared MayorJohn Bennett, referring to the number of affordable housing unitsneeded to meet the city’s ultimate needs.Once that number is known, he said, it should be adhered to andany open spaces not targeted for development at that point shouldbe forever sterilized from the possibility of development.

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