Letter: Affordable housing game has no rules
September 14, 2013
Affordable housing game has no rules
The article "City holds big cards in affordable housing game" (Aspen Daily News Sept. 8, 2013) has it only partially correct. More properly, the city is trying to change the rules of the game after the hand has been dealt.
Let me explain. The article mentions the property at 802 W. Main (the "Long property"). When the city bought it, the long history of attempts to rezone — from single-family and the setting of density and height limits, not only for that parcel but indeed the entire surrounding residential area to the west and north — were plainly on the public record.
For example, agreements concerning density and height limits were reached among the city, the neighboring residents and the developers of the Bavarian Inn property, giving rise to significant affordable housing built in the area. Those same limits were in part the basis for denial when subsequently a developer attempted to change the zoning of the Long property from single-family residential mixed use. That was all known prior to the city purchase of the property.
If a developer today attempted to build three-story buildings adding 12 units on the Long property, it would have no chance in the face of that history. But, obviously the city must believe that it is immune and stands in a different position vis-à-vis its own aspirations for the Long property. When the city wants to develop, the rules of the game change.
That Mr. Barry Crook states any development would have to "keep the neighbors in mind" is nothing more than a case of institutional amnesia concerning those very limits the city agreed to uphold (and did so in the case of attempts at private development) but now refuses to abide by itself. The sorry reality is that, at least in this realm of development, the city signs its agreements with disappearing ink.
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Neil B. Siegel
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