Units stack up at Burlingame?
ASPEN ” Some homeowners at Burlingame Ranch are leery about the effect on their quality of life if another 64 units are built at the affordable housing complex.
More people means more cars, which could create parking issues. And common areas used by children and families already are maxed out in the development, said Sam Ferguson, a board member on the condo association overseeing the first phase of Burlingame.
Many questions will have to be answered, and many issues addressed before residents and voters will be comfortable signing off on more units, Ferguson said.
“There’s not enough parking spaces already,” he said, adding homeowner covenants dictate that each unit is allowed the equivalent of 1.6 cars, which is not the case now.
The Aspen City Council agreed Monday that as part of Burlingame’s second and third phases, officials will pursue the idea of building 300 units instead of the original 236 that city residents signed off on in 2005.
Other changes from the original plan include adding another story to the buildings, which are currently limited at 32 feet in height. The council also wants to consider stacked units that would end up looking much like apartments. It’s a building design that was not recommended during the early approvals of the development. Additionally, modular construction could be employed to make construction more cost effective.
Council members agreed that the density shouldn’t be increased without the blessing of the current Burlingame homeowners and Aspen voters, who approved of the concept of 236 units in 2005.
Dirk Bockelmann, a Burlingame resident, said it’s hard to visualize what another 64 units would look like since only 84 units have been built thus far. But like most homeowners, he would prefer that nothing else be built.
“Once you have it, it’s like ‘don’t build it, we’re all set,'” he said. “We’re happy with what we’ve got and we can bitch about it later.”
Each homeowner at Burlingame will be able to vote on whether more density should occur in their neighborhood. The city of Aspen also has voting rights since it owns 60 percent of the units (as they haven’t been built and therefore haven’t been sold).
It will require a two-thirds majority vote from all of the owners in order to change the planned unit development (PUD) approval placed on the property, said city attorney John Worcester.
The homeowners’ association covenants dictate 236 units, but a preannexation agreement with the Zoline family, which sold the property to the city, states that up to 330 units can be built at Burlingame.
However, much of the discussion during the 2005 campaign centered around making the development low density and limiting it to 236 units. That number was used in the now “infamous” brochure that didn’t account for millions of dollars in infrastructure and other costs.
“All the [campaign] literature said 236,” Worcester said. “It was a big discussion point at the time.”
It’s anticipated that the City Council will move forward with a ballot question this fall that would ask voters to renew the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), which funds the affordable housing program. Another question would ask voters to approve a bond that would borrow against future RETT revenue to fund building phases two and three at Burlingame. A third question would ask voters to increase the density of units.
A panel of residents called the Construction Experts Group, convened by City Manager Steve Barwick, is considering a new model of development at Burlingame and will present a final recommendation in the coming weeks. That will likely include modular construction, stacked units and more density.
“We are going to move forward with what 300 looks like, smells like and tastes like,” Mayor Mick Ireland said.
Once the recommendation is in, the City Council will start formulating a draft ballot language, which has to be finalized by Sept. 5 to make the fall ballot.
But that won’t happen until Burlingame homeowners weigh in.
“We need to hear from current homeowners and we need their buy-in,” said City Councilman Steve Skadron, adding his own informal survey of Burlingame residents indicates some resistance. “I don’t want to be in a position where the city is strong-arming the residents into more units.”
Ireland suggested that it will be more of a “gentle persuasion” in convincing
Burlingame residents to agree to more neighbors.
He added that the electorate needs also to make the decision, especially since density was a central argument during the 2005 campaign.
“I think the voters have to weigh in on whether we should go beyond 236,” Ireland said, adding he worked on the campaign supporting Burlingame. “People cared about 236 … it was a key issue.”
Protecting the quality of life for residents and ensuring the housing units are built well are key concerns for the experts group, as well as for elected leaders. But, building more units will reduce the per-unit subsidy for the project.
A group is being assembled to oppose a ballot measure, arguing that it’s premature because a detailed plan hasn’t been hashed out. They also argue that even more density could be accommodated at Burlingame.
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The Wheeler Opera House will remain dark into 2021, with current COVID-19 public health orders in place. Meanwhile, the masonry work on the exterior of the building will continue into July.