Housing problems? Just keep on growing, Aspen
Burlingame, Burlingame, Burlingame! We’ve been hearing about this gargantuan employee housing project for years.But, while we’ve been bogged down in the usual fights about increased traffic and the lack of decent places for regular folks to live, I think a very important part of the process has been overlooked. In this project, our civic leaders have displayed a tremendous ability to come up with a workable solution to a very difficult problem.Think about it. This was a quandary begging for chaos from the inception. Our City Council was faced with the unenviable task of coming up with a way to house a significant percentage of the local work force within city limits that are bulging from maximum built-out already. To complicate matters, in the few remaining places where new housing could possibly be built, it always seemed that ornery neighbors lived next door. It didn’t matter where, the existing views of Shadow Mountain, Ute Cemetery or City Market seemed important to protect for the character of our town. It’s understandable. We’re all NIMBYs eventually.A few uninspired meddlers suggested that we go ahead and build on top of everything that is already here. We haven’t seen much activity in the way of adding new floors onto existing buildings yet, but as soon as the first landlord does it, I imagine we’ll witness a new building boom. Even so, government leaders don’t like this kind of solution because it is mostly out of their control and takes longer than term limits to achieve.So, you ask, why did the town leaders bother to do anything given this difficult set of circumstances? Well, they had to. It was a directive from public servants of simpler times past. Back when things were going a bit too smoothly around here, a few big thinkers in local politics had enough spare time on their hands to come up with a mandate they dubbed the AACP. That’s Aspen Area Community Plan for those of you who have never been mesmerized by GrassRoots TV during a bout of insomnia.Since this document was formulated, it has supplanted the tablets from Mount Sinai as our guiding principles. It more or less states that the perfect mountain ski town at 39 -11 North Latitude, 106-52 West Longitude and approximately 7,908 feet above mean sea level, consists of 7,456 residents, of which 62.47 percent live here full time and work year-round except for 10 unpaid vacation days, not including weekends, holidays or unlimited sick time each year. As you can see, nobody can argue with this. So, our local politicians, sworn to meet the objectives of this plan, were faced with a problem more difficult than the essay portion of the calculus section on the Mensa test – they had to find a way to house more of the town’s work force within the city limits.And this is where I give them credit for creative thinking. Their solution was so simple that we might expect any 4-year-old to come up with it. That’s where the genius lies. Rather than waste a downvalley RFTA bus ride’s worth of brain cells figuring out how to cram another thousand residents into the existing city limits, they simply expanded the city limits. Do you get it? When AACP was carved out, employee housing at Burlingame wouldn’t have counted toward its ends. That part of town wasn’t in town!Our leaders were smart enough to understand that once a notion like the AACP becomes firmly entrenched in the local consciousness it replaces common sense. The oft-exploited Aspen Idea and various manipulate-to-suit Bible passages prove this. And, as there is no room for common sense in government, the Burlingame plan worked. Now, I suppose hindsight gives us an advantage, but it’s easy to see where this line of thinking is going. If you can move the Aspen city limits sign from the roundabout another half a mile west to the other side of Maroon Creek, couldn’t it be moved again? Of course it can! With five city of Aspen maintenance workers, one shovel and a good day’s digging, we can move the sign another couple of miles west and convert another 70 or so families living at North Forty into citizens of Aspen.We shouldn’t stop there, either. Who would suggest that the residents of Aspen Village and W/J Ranch shouldn’t be living in town? Then we’ll take that sign right through the Phillips Curves section of our newly extended Main Street and on past what is now known as the town of Basalt. Finally, those folks will get to replace that old, faded, embarrassment of a “B” on the hill above town with a fresh, beautiful, giant “A.” From there we’ll carry the sign past old Carbondale and annex towns beyond. Soon Glenwood, New Castle and Rifle will be the names of neighborhoods in our fair city. Won’t it be fun to attend Aspen Mountain Fair every summer? How about a dip in the Aspen Hot Springs Pool? Who says we can’t have a Wal-Mart here? Aspen Glen won’t even have to change their stationery. All kinds of Silt will happen right in our own town! Best of all, 100 percent of the work force will live in Aspen. Workers will no longer have to drive all the way from Rifle to get to their jobs in another city. They’ll only have to commute across town to get to work. All of AACP’s goals will be exceeded and we’ll be one happy, gigantic community!And to think, you were skeptical enough to believe that the Aspen Area Community Plan couldn’t solve all of our problems. Burlingame is only the first step in the right direction. That direction just happens to be west.Roger Marolt believes that we can house an unlimited number of people in Aspen if we just push the limits. Let him know if you want your neighborhood included in the plan at email@example.com
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“I have spent more than two decades involved in housing issues, most recently as a former APCHA board member. I will always be a recovering CPA (certified public accountant) — my financial and business experience will allow me to hit the ground running and to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars,” writes Chris Council.