Aspen Times editorial: Tree Farm: wrong project in the right place |

Aspen Times editorial: Tree Farm: wrong project in the right place

The Tree Farm project in the El Jebel area has generated a lot of controversy for a lot of years, and now it’s coming to a climax. The Eagle County commissioners could vote on the application as soon as today.

We believe the commissioners must reject the project as proposed. The Tree Farm is the wrong project in the right place.

Ace Lane and his Woody Ventures LLC want to build 340 residences and nearly 135,000 square feet of commercial space on the north side of Highway 82, across from Whole Foods. That is too much for the Roaring Fork Valley to absorb, even if it is phased over time.

On the housing front, the applicant has agreed to provide 50 deed-restricted affordable-housing units and designate another 150 as resident-occupied. As proposed, eligible households — such as people who live and work in the Roaring Fork Valley — would have first priority on the RO units, but only for the first 60 days after they are listed. After that, anybody could buy them.

Another 140 units would be rented at free-market rates.

The affordable-housing plan is flawed. We suspect a lot of those 150 RO units would end up as second homes. They would be attractive to people outside of the Roaring Fork Valley who have long been priced out of the Aspen and Snowmass Village market. An affordable ski condo in the midvalley would be their dream come true. That might fuel a real estate industry boom but do little to ease the affordable-housing crisis.

On the commercial front, it is doubtful that the midvalley needs another 135,000 square feet of commercial development. Willits Town Center has constructed 272,000 square feet of commercial space so far and 25 percent of it sits unrented and unoccupied, according to a representative of the owner. Another 126,000 square feet of commercial space is already approved but unbuilt in Willits.

The vast majority of the public clearly feels the proposed density is too high and the impacts are too great.

The Tree Farm is appropriate for some level of residential development, given its location next to an existing bus rapid transit station. Lane should significantly reduce the residential component and nix the commercial development.

Editor’s note: The original version of this editorial erroneously said the 140 free-market units in the project would be sold. They will be rented.

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