Where was the housing support a few months ago? | AspenTimes.com
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Where was the housing support a few months ago?

The city of Aspen has a goal of housing 60 percent of the resort’s work force in the upper valley. This is not a new goal; it has been the goal for some time.I commend City Council for finally addressing this problem, but obviously it’s too late.I quote Mayor Helen Klanderud (Aspen Times, May 11) regarding a proposed hike in fees developers pay if their project does not include worker housing: “The problem with cash-in-lieu is it falls back on the city. Although you’ve got the cash to do it, you don’t have anywhere to do it.”I think what we should look at is requiring them to build the unit, period.”Councilwoman Rachel Richards said in the same article, “Make the in-lieu payment real.”What hypocrites. Or is it just political expediency?Just a few months ago City Council approved the Limelight project with one employee housing unit and a minimal cash-in-lieu payment. In effect, the Limelight received a subsidy of several million dollars at the expense of employee housing.The developers proposed an “audit” of employees two years hence, which was and is a complete sham. However, four of the council members swallowed this sham – hook, line, sinker and even the rod. We don’t know, but it could just have been political favoritism toward a longtime Aspen family. Has anyone seen the details of this proposed audit? Is chief planner Chris Bendon going to supervise and/or approve the audit? My grandchildren would be in better hands with John Wayne Gacey (yes, I know he’s dead) than the residents of Aspen will be if Bendon is in charge.Of course, the approval occurred before the council or the public knew that the free-market condos would be pre-priced from $3.5 million to $7.5 million, a number that is likely to increase in light of what has happened to other projects. Be that as it may, how many of the buyers of these multimillion-dollar units are going to clean their own units? How many will have butlers, cooks and other employees?How is anyone going to determine how many employees are working in these free-market units? Are you going to audit the payrolls/tax returns of every unit owner? What if employees are paid in cash? What a sham.I have my doubts that an employee audit will ever take place, and if it does it will be worthless.The same problem that exists today – the necessity to increase housing fees – and is so vociferously supported by the four council members who voted to give a multimillion-dollar subsidy to the Limelight, existed just a few months ago. I presume Councilman J.E. DeVilbis is also in favor of the increase (which I wholeheartedly support), but he was smart enough to see through the Limelight development proposal and vote against it because he was not receiving enough information from the developers.I guess I wouldn’t want City Council to know the free-market condos were to sell for an average of $5 million if I were the developer seeking unprecedented variances from the code and a multimillion-dollar subsidy on employee housing.I believe the next shock we will all receive will be how much a “moderately priced” room at the new Limelight will cost. But at least we will have a year to digest what has already happened before we have to absorb that one.James French is a lawyer and Aspen resident.


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