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Puppy Smith housing project advances

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A proposed three-unit housing project for city employees is expected to go to city voters in November, though the City Council nearly shot down the plan on Monday.

The plan for city property at 220 Puppy Smith St. calls for refurbishing and enlarging an existing cottage and the construction of a duplex there. The 10,249-square-foot parcel, east of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and north of the post office, was purchased with open space funds. Its change in use requires voter approval.

Much of the land will be retained as wetlands, but Councilwoman Rachel Richards objected to putting housing for city workers on open space.

“It’s a very exclusive use of what was purchased with the city’s open space money,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to poach open space for this,” agreed Councilman Tim Semrau, but he changed his mind when he learned two other houses existed there until the late 1980s.

The project will provide some needed family-style housing for employees, said City Manager Steve Barwick.

“What you have here is a pretty marginal piece of open space,” he said. “I don’t think there’s been a member of the public who has set foot there in 20 years.”

The project was designed by a task force appointed by the council in August 2000. Councilman Terry Paulson was a member of the group.

“I have always felt uncomfortable with this project,” he said. “The only thing I can support there is the existing building – the renovation of it.”

The cottage currently houses a city worker.

Objections that threatened to scuttle the project before Semrau’s change of heart had Mayor Helen Klanderud questioning the lack of communication coming from the task force.

“This should not have gotten this far and now get this kind of reaction,” she said.

Klanderud supported the site as ideal for housing. It’s in close proximity to a grocery store, the post office and other amenities, she noted.

“It’s what we talk about – build where there is already building,” she said.

Semrau, however, called for a redesign of the duplex.

“This is a city project and it’s just too ugly,” he said.

The council continued its review of the development to Sept. 8, after Klanderud, Semrau and Councilman Torre agreed they’d like it to go forward. A review of the ballot language regarding the proposed change in use of the land was also continued to that date.

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


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