Phillips Trailer Park’s future begins this weekend as Pitkin County starts planning process
The future of a trailer park bought by Pitkin County last year to preserve precious affordable housing in the upper Roaring Fork Valley begins Saturday.
Pitkin County officials inked a $150,000 contract last week with planning specialists who will be at the Phillips Trailer Park between Woody Creek and Old Snowmass on Saturday morning for an initial meeting with residents, said Phyllis Mattice, assistant Pitkin County manager.
That meeting — between 10 a.m. and noon — will allow Laura Kirk, a Carbondale site planner and landscape architect, and Bob Schulz, a community outreach specialist also from Carbondale, to establish contact with residents and begin to find out what they’d like to see done to the property, Kirk and Schulz told Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday at the board’s annual retreat.
“We will be in the visitors’ parking lot,” Schulz said. “(We will) deliver fliers and invite people over to meet us and understand the process and create conversation.”
After protracted negotiations with the longtime property owners, the county agreed to pay $6.5 million for the 76 acres along the Roaring Fork River in January. The deal nearly fell apart at one point when an inspection revealed a septic system in far worse shape than originally anticipated, though the property owners agreed to $1 million less than they initially agreed to sell for.
The property features about 35 trailers, four cabins and an old ranch home for a total of 40 units.
Harriett Noyes, whose mother and father bought the Phillips property in 1933 for $500, told The Aspen Times earlier this year that she wanted to sell to the county so her residents wouldn’t end up without a place to live in a valley where housing is at a premium.
“If I had sold on the open market, a lot of people would be homeless,” Noyes said in March.
Kirk, Schulz and another planning consultant from Denver will first perform environmental health, fiscal health and community health assessments on the Phillips property. Specifically, the community health assessment will gather opinions about residents’ quality of life and what they’d like to change or keep about the development, Kirk said.
“That will lay the groundwork for you all to make decisions on a master plan for (the property),” she said.
The team will engage with the Woody Creek Caucus toward the end of the year when it plans to begin formulating a site plan for the trailer park, Kirk said.
“This is going to be tough,” said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock. “We have a long-term opportunity to do something awesome for the community.”
Elected officials voiced their priorities for the site.
Commissioner George Newman said he’d like to see limited new growth on the site while eventually allowing the trailer park to become self-governing like other trailer parks the county has preserved in the past as affordable housing.
Commissioner Greg Poschman emphasized energy efficiency for whatever the county decides to do and suggested bringing in the Community Office for Resource Efficiency to provide assistance in that vein.
Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper said her top concern is a safe and effective septic system and reliable, clean drinking water for residents. Beyond that, Clapper emphasized the need for wildfire planning and mitigation for the site and said she supported Newman’s aim of limited growth.
Clapper also said she’d like to take a look at tiny homes for the property.
Finally, Commissioner Steve Child said he was interested in hearing what residents would like to see done with the large amount of open space on the property, and suggested a community garden might be a good option.
Regardless of what the Phillips Trailer Park becomes in the future, the county will eventually face another significant decision when it comes to the property. That decision will revolve around the ongoing management of the property.
Pitkin County must decide whether to assign the trailer park to the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority or contract with APCHA for similar management services. If commissioners decide they want to maintain oversight of the property, then the best thing to do is form its own housing authority, said John Ely, Pitkin County attorney.
A similar decision must also be made for the Basalt Vista affordable-housing project currently under construction behind Basalt High School.
Commissioners and Aspen City Council members are currently debating if and how to change the makeup of the APCHA governing board to streamline the board’s decision-making process.