School district is on the right track |

School district is on the right track

Aspen, CO Colorado

We’re happy to see the Aspen School District succeed in snatching up several properties to help house its teachers.

District officials reported to the Pitkin County commissioners last week that they had acquired a parcel in Snowmass Village where they intend to build some 18 new housing units. They’ve also purchased three apartments at the Aspen Business Center and another in the Hunter Creek condominium complex, and a deal on a duplex in Basalt is also in the offing.

Cumulatively, this effort will roughly double the district’s current stock of housing, which is a good thing for the teachers, the district and the valley’s kids. Affordable housing is vital to attract and retain talented educators for the valley’s children, and the district is taking advantage of a buyer’s market.

Last November, school district voters demonstrated an understanding of the district’s housing problems by agreeing to let school officials borrow $12 million to acquire and build housing. At the time, this newspaper was hesitant to endorse the bonding measure because of the district’s immunity from local land-use regulations. Under state law, school districts have great latitude in building whatever they want, wherever they want.

This was an attempt on the state’s part to ensure that public schools provide for their students, but it has created problems when the schools develop buildings in ways and in places that don’t jibe with local government plans. And the Aspen School District is already in a sort of stand-off with the Pitkin County commissioners over the West Ranch property, northwest of Woody Creek, where the district wishes to add eight more units to an existing complex of 10.

The district’s purchase of the Snowmass Village parcel raises the same set of issues as West Ranch: Will the district play by local land-use rules, or will it act with state-authorized impunity?

Again, we’re happy to see the district taking care of its teachers by investing in housing. The only potential downside of these efforts is a needless feud with a local government like Snowmass Village or Pitkin County.

We hope the district will work with the local governments, and not against them.

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