Truscott debate:How many units?
City officials may be headed for yet another showdown over philosophical differences on affordable housing density.The dispute is shaping up over how much housing to add to the existing Truscott Place complex next to the Aspen Municipal Golf Course. The project is part of local government’s overall plan for building hundreds of new affordable housing units in the next few years.The Aspen City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission have been separately reviewing conceptual plans to add as many as 188 housing units, in three phases, to the 98-unit buildings that stand at Truscott Place today.The P&Z is strongly in favor of a high-density project, while the council is not so sure.Officials are reviewing only Phase I and Phase II for now, which call for construction of multifamily buildings clustered directly to the east and to the west of the existing structures.The first phase, initially conceived as adding between 50 and 60 units, is to be built on land that is now used as a storage area for dirt and other materials. The second phase, adding about 38 units, is to be located in the area that is now principally occupied by the golf cart barn. Phase 3 will be the renovation of the old 58-unit Red Roof Inn – part of the existing Truscott housing – to create 80 to 90 units.But the council and the P&Z seem to have differing ideas about such issues as the density of the housing and the need for a parking structure.Mayor Rachel Richards, at a work session on March 20, fought to reduce the number of units in the first two phases to improve what she termed the “livability” of the project, arguing that there needs to be more open space for family outdoor activities and play areas for children.When asked about the open space represented by the surrounding golf course, Richards replied, “The feel of open space and the use of open space are two very different things.” She advocated the removal of two entire buildings, containing eight units, trimming the total number of units in the first two phases to 88.And Councilman Tony Hershey urged project designers to be sure to include enough parking spaces, saying, “I think part of livability is having your car.”But Councilman Terry Paulson countered that citizens want to see more housing, not open space or storage for cars.”We’ve given in on density in most places,” he said about earlier projects. “We’re starting low and we’re going to end up even lower.”On March 21, the P&Z directed planners to forget about parking spaces and open space, and concentrate on packing in as many units as possible.”I’d like to see one hundred units [in the first two phases],” declared P&Z member Ron Erickson. “I don’t care where you put ’em.”P&Z Chairman Robert Blaich pointed out that the P&Z has pushed for higher density in projects before, and lost, specifically mentioning the Snyder Park project and Seventh and Main.But in the end, members agreed that their mandate is to press for housing above all else.”I don’t think we need to create green space on a golf course,” said Tim Mooney. “We need to create housing.”
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