RFTA wins housing exemption | AspenTimes.com

RFTA wins housing exemption

Jeremy Heiman

RFTA will not have to provide housing to compensate for new employees who will work out of a temporary office building to be erected next to the agency’s bus barn.

The Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday approved a modular office building to be used for a human resources office for the agency. At the request of RFTA officials, the commissioners approved the building with an exemption from the requirement to provide affordable housing.

RFTA General Manager Dan Blankenship argued in a memos to County Manager Suzanne Konchan that RFTA should not have to provide housing mitigation for employees generated by the building, because the agency has taken numerous steps to help its employees with housing. Those efforts include allowing more employees to report to work at downvalley locations and issuing rental advances and housing purchase advances to employees.

In addition, argued Mike Davis, the agency’s planning director, RFTA is making an effort to participate in the Music Associates of Aspen’s seasonal housing project at Burlingame.

The commissioners voted 3-1, with Commissioner Dorothea Farris absent, to approve the erection of the 1,320-square-foot office building, and to exempt the agency from the housing requirement. Commissioner Shellie Harper’s motion to approve included a recital indicating that RFTA is actively looking for housing for its employees.

Commissioner Mick Ireland was the sole dissenter, arguing that everyone, even RFTA, should be held responsible for the impacts of growth.

“I’m gonna vote against this because it’s time we send a message to the community about unmitigated housing,” Ireland said. “The message is ‘No mas.'”

Ireland continued, noting some area residents think a valleywide train isn’t necessary because RFTA can be expanded indefinitely, but they don’t take the consequences into account. He said the problem is worsened because the county permits the construction of huge homes that generate huge numbers of employees, also without mitigation.

“The community is drowning in employees,” he said.

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