The other side of Centennial
Centennial made a proposal to build two LEED-certified, energy-efficient free-market units of about 2,600 square feet each, the profit from which would allow us to build new affordable units. But, to do so, the county would need to release rent restrictions on a small portion of the Centennial site or transfer the restriction held by the county to the city, where the land is, so the city could make a judgment about the proposed uses.
For eight months I have been requesting a public meeting with the county commission ” three times in writing and again verbally on July 9. Contrary to what was reported in The Times, I have not met with or discussed this with any commissioner or with the county manager. I met once with the county attorney, in May, and made a new verbal offer to build six rather than four affordable units. The only thing I heard since, conveyed to me by the county attorney after an executive session, is that they don’t like what I proposed.
According to The Aspen Times, the commission wants extended rent controls ” beyond the current term of approximately 75 years ” on all the existing units as a non-negotiable precondition for any discussion. In my experience, any negotiation is a give and take. Their position, if accurately reported, is all take and no give.
I am sorry that the only substantive information I have about their position is what I read in the newspaper. This is not the right place to carry on a reasonable discussion. The public meeting we repeatedly requested would have been.
The proposal Centennial would have been a good deal for the public. The free-market units would enhance the neighborhood and be a model of energy efficiency and modest size. And, in a climate where new affordable units are being subsidized at the rate of about $400,000 each, the six new units ” with no public cost or subsidy ” should be attractive. Centennial requested release of the deed restriction for two lots totaling 14,050 square feet, out of a total site of 458,067. This is hardly “destroying the neighborhood,” as one commissioner apparently said to The Aspen Times. But it is not surprising that the commission is misinformed. Our proposal has never been fully presented to them, so they rely on rumor and speculation. Centennial sought a public review so all sides could be heard, not just those who talk to the commissioners in private.
The county attorney called our planning consultant, Glenn Horn, several days ago and said that, for the commission, this is not a planning issue. They believe they have the equivalent of a property interest in Centennial, through the rent restrictions, and they have no legal obligation to even discuss any sale, trade or modification of this interest. This may be the letter of the law. But surely there is an obligation to consider proposals for new affordable housing whether the law absolutely requires it or not.
Centennial Aspen II built and has been a good steward of the largest employee-housing project actually constructed to date. In its entirety, Centennial is larger in total units than Burlingame at its full proposed build-out. We have also tried to be good citizens, supporting many local charities. After 24 years, I thought we had earned the right to be taken seriously when making a proposal for additional affordable housing. Apparently, I was wrong.
Centennial Aspen II Limited Partnership
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