W/J zoning still up in air
The same philosophical issues that have plagued Pitkin County’s yearlong attempt to downzone W/J Ranch resurfaced last night when the county Planning and Zoning Commission took up the issue once again.Three solid hours of debate last night resulted in no action from the P&Z, which decided to table discussion on a proposal from the county planning office to sharply limit development at W/J, a ranch in the Woody Creek area.”Let’s call a spade a spade,” said P&Z member Charlie Tarver midway through the marathon session. “We don’t want anything built anywhere – ever.”Tarver was commenting on the county’s proposal to downzone W/J and a 35-acre county-owned lot at Wildcat Ranch to RS-20. The move would allow only five units on W/J and one on the county lot. It would be coupled with a new affordable housing overlay zone that would permit affordable units on any 100-acre parcel within a half-mile of Highway 82. Lots smaller than 100 acres would not qualify.Only two 100-acre lots exist in the extended metro area, but county planner Lance Clarke pointed out that there are several 50-acre lots that could be combined.Clarke told the P&Z that along with limiting development at W/J, the idea was to allow property owners to develop affordable housing as long as it’s located within walking distance – a quarter-mile – of bus stops along Highway 82, thereby clustering development in areas served by transit.The attorney for W/J pointed out that the overlay zone would only allow 45 more units on the ranch. W/J owner John Musick recently said he wants to build between 300 and 400 units of affordable housing there.The rezoning proposal would only allow development on 15 percent of a qualifying lot; the remaining 85 percent would be dedicated as open space. To be affected, a lot must be at least partly located in Aspen’s “extended metro area,” which runs from the city limits along either side of the highway to just past Aspen Village.The proposed overlay zoning has no incentives built in that allow private developers to build extra free-market homes if they build affordable housing. “I think for anyone, anywhere to build affordable housing, there has to be commitment,” Clarke said.P&Z member Peter Martin was unwilling to retire W/J as a potential site for affordable housing until elected officials from the city and county begin to address the issue seriously and build housing closer to Aspen and the county’s other economic centers.Member Doug Unfug was more concerned about the proposal’s usefulness in protecting agricultural lands, which is apparently one of its goals. He was also worried about continuing a philosophical discussion about housing that seemed unlikely to change anyone’s mind, but he agreed to continue the debate on March 2, after Clarke has had a chance to make changes to the proposal.P&Z member Steve Whipple made it clear he didn’t like the idea of building anything in Woody Creek.”I think this proposal will force affordable housing to be built in Glenwood, or Silt,” said architect Ted Guy, one of 18 people who attended the meeting. “Under the guise of encouraging affordable housing, it may make building it here impossible.”
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