Phase 1 of Burlingame pared back | AspenTimes.com

Phase 1 of Burlingame pared back

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Rather than subject the Burlingame Ranch housing project to another vote ? or subject voters to another vote ? the Aspen City Council agreed Monday to pare back phase one of the development.

The council had originally envisioned tackling 220 of the 330 total units slated for Burlingame in the first phase of development, but the city would have to borrow money to bite off that big a chunk of the project, according to City Manager Steve Barwick. And borrowing money would require voter authorization.

“When we’re talking about projects of this magnitude, there doesn’t seem to be any other way to do it,” he said.

The controversial project was endorsed by about 60 percent of the vote in a special election on Aug. 8, 2000. Yesterday, council members voiced reluctance to make Burlingame yet another issue that is subjected to multiple votes, à la the Entrance to Aspen.

“The last thing I want is to put this community through another debate on Burlingame and another campaign,” said Councilman Tony Hershey.

“At this point in time, I’m burned out on the divisiveness kind of stuff,” agreed Councilman Tom McCabe. “If we can avoid it, so much the better.”

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McCabe quickly added that he does not believe the community’s support for affordable housing at Burlingame has wavered.

The City Council had directed staffers to come up with a financial analysis for: constructing 220 units of deed-restricted housing at Burlingame Ranch, building another 40 or so units at Burlingame Parcel D (a separate 2.5-acre parcel next to the Aspen Airport Business Center), moving forward with a housing project on a city-owned parking lot off Rio Grande Place and leaving $6 million available for the purchase of future housing sites that may become available.

“The good news is, it’s all doable,” Barwick said. “The bad news is, you’re going to have to borrow money to do that.”

Financial projections indicate pursing all four goals would cost about $79 million over the next seven years, but the city will have an estimated $88 million in housing funds at its disposal at the end of 2009. The first 220 units of Burlingame Ranch alone would cost an estimated $57.5 million and require a construction loan of about $25 million, according to Barwick.

The subsidy for Burlingame ? the cost of the 220 units borne by the city after the units are built and sold ? is roughly $23.5 million, according to projections.

Councilman Tim Semrau suggested the city construct Burlingame Ranch in three phases rather than two, with 110 units in phase one, and forget about keeping $6 million on hand for future land purchases for the next several years. That way, the city can start construction at Burlingame and build the infrastructure to accommodate all 330 units without borrowing funds and necessitating another public vote, he said.

“It would be more prudent to plan for a phase that we can pay for,” Semrau argued.

The rest of the council agreed, directing staffers to re-crunch the numbers for a three-phase project.

If another potential housing parcel emerges, the city will still have options to acquire it without keeping millions of dollars in reserve, Barwick assured the council.

“If one walked through the door the moment you spent your money on something else, you could go to the voters and borrow against future revenues,” he said.

Semrau also urged the council to include all 35 of the RO single-family lots planned at Burlingame Ranch in phase one. RO, or resident occupied, housing is the most expensive category, and its sale will produce the greatest influx of funds up front, he noted. The rest of phase one would be a mix of Category 2, 3 and 4 housing. No Category 1 ? the least expensive type ? is planned at Burlingame Ranch.

Mayor Helen Klanderud alone expressed reservations about weighting phase one with too much of the priciest housing.

Semrau also encouraged the council to shorten its timetable for Burlingame so that a development team is chosen before the council election next May. With three seats on the council up for election in the spring, a turnover could delay the project while new members bring themselves up to speed on it, he reasoned.

“My suggestion is, try to get a developer picked by the first meeting in May,” Semrau said.

The city is planning a design/build competition for Burlingame Ranch. The council agreed yesterday to proceed quickly with the preliminary engineering work, like soil testing, to help speed things along.

Burlingame Ranch is slated for a chunk of land east of Highway 82 and north of the Maroon Creek Club, roughly across the highway from Buttermilk ski area.

A proposed time line presented to the council yesterday called for breaking ground on phase one in December 2005.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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