Most candidates are against housing on town’s golf course
This is the third part in an ongoing series of articles in which The Aspen Times seeks comment on various issues from candidates for city office.We are asking the candidates one question per day and will print their brief answers. Four candidates are seeking election as Aspen’s next mayor and six are vying for two City Council seats. The election is May 4.Should the city golf course be considered as a place to build a significant amount of affordable housing?Roger Haneman, City Council No. While placing affordable housing as close to the city grid as possible is a good idea, this proposal is fraught with difficulties. Moving some holes onto the Moore open space would need approval from the Open Space Board, then from the voters, then we would have to buy comparable land to replace it. What land is comparable to Aspen’s entrance? We should continue work on other parcels; the public already controls these properties, and we can come back to it later if vitally necessary.Tony Hershey, City Council No. I would not touch a blade of grass on the current municipal golf course. Not only does the golf course serve the citizens in summer and winter (for cross country skiing), it is also a significant visual piece of open space at the entrance to Aspen. Aesthetically, housing at that location makes no sense. In addition, we have the Burlingame land and a plan for housing there. Why waste money moving the golf course when it serves so many where it is now? I am also concerned that the residents of Snowbunny and Cemetery Lane, who rely on this area and purchased property with the golf course where it is now, would be unfairly penalized if large amounts of housing are built there.Tom McCabe, City Council No. The golf course should not be considered as a place to build a significant amount of affordable housing. I do support more affordable housing, but tearing out all or part of our current golf course would be an irresponsible way to approach the problem. Relocating all or part of the golf course would be an immense disruption to our community, it would dramatically increase the total cost necessary to accomplish the affordable housing and would violate the original intent of putting the golf course in its current location, thinking it would remain open space. The government has an obligation to respect that.Bruce Meyer, City Council Yes. Any venue should be explored as a possible site to build affordable housing. There was a study by an independent planner that showed that the golf course could be reconfigured. Housing traffic would impact Cemetery Lane and not Highway 82. And even though open-space people might not be crazy about it, it might not be a bad answer.Tim Semrau, City Council The Planning and Zoning Commission, of which I am a member, unanimously asked City Council to gather information concerning the feasibility of expanding housing at this location. We need to think “out of the box” concerning all our affordable housing projects in terms of increasing density, maximizing our public resources, and minimizing the consumption of open space in achieving our affordable housing goals. At this time there is not sufficient information to say whether adding significant density to the Truscott expansion is possible or in the best interests of the community.Jake Vickery, City Council I believe housing on the golf course would be very difficult to accomplish given public sentiment on the golf course in our community. But that said, I want to encourage various boards and committees to look at “out of the box” ideas. I respect [the P&Z’s] need to do research and come to closure on the idea. For this reason I voted to fund a relatively small amount of money of look at the idea.Helen Klanderud, mayor We need affordable housing, but I do not support housing on dedicated open-space parcels. Some expansion at Truscott Place may be acceptable, but not necessarily as many as the 80 to 120 units proposed in the Aspen Area Community Plan update draft. I do not support additional housing that would require moving nine holes from the existing golf course across the highway to the Moore open-space property. That proposal is too disruptive, too expensive, and violates our open-space policy.Michael O’Sullivan, mayor I would not support affordable housing on the golf course. I view the golf course as a critical open-space buffer to the entrance to Aspen and would rather see affordable housing in the commercial core or along transit corridors. You don’t need to play golf to appreciate it as a local recreational asset, tourist amenity, and green. And have you noticed that the only thing even resembling open space in Vail is their golf course?Rachel Richards, mayorNo. I’ve been on the record opposing this idea for many months. My first reason is a fundamental belief that we should not use dedicated open space for housing purposes. Secondly, I feel that there are more appropriate sites while pursuing this one would be extremely divisive to the community. As serious as the housing situation is, it doesn’t call for destroying other community values. Housing does not supersede other long-held community values. But I do fully support the redevelopment of Truscott and hope with a tax credit package, more long-term rental units can be provided.Bill Stirling, mayor In 1990, while I was mayor, we purchased Truscott, which was then a lodge called the Red Roof Inn, when it was on the verge of being lost to free market development. Truscott is one of the few truly affordable housing projects. It does not take space from the golf course. I support adding the proposed additional units to Truscott, as long as it stays within the existing building envelope. I do not support additional new housing on the golf course because it is a foolish and costly idea to destroy one amenity in order to create another. The municipal golf course is the only public course between Glenwood and Aspen. Housing should not be such a sacred cow that we demolish community amenities or clutter open space or build on existing parks.
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.