Developers’ affordable-housing plan at base of Aspen Mountain changes
Property owners who are redeveloping the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side failed to get support Wednesday from the local housing board to pay mitigation fees instead of building units for employees.
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board denied Michael and Aaron Brown’s request to pay cash-in-lieu fees as an alternative to providing actual units either by building them or through a credits program.
The APCHA board voted 5-1 to recommend to Aspen City Council that the Browns should provide housing either on-site or off-site, or through the Certificate of Affordable Housing Credits Program.
APCHA board member Chris Council cast the dissenting vote, saying the cash-in-lieu fee is set too low for it to make any impact on housing local workers.
Cash-in-lieu fees range from $111,438 to $381,383 for each full-time employee created by a development.
“I can never support cash-in-lieu,” Council said, adding he was in opposition because he only supports housing on-site because it is too difficult and expensive to build it elsewhere in town.
“They are not building more of this stuff,” Council said.
Michael Brown said his preference is to build affordable housing, but he wants the option of cash-in-lieu if there aren’t enough credits available to buy.
The credit program allows a developer to build affordable housing and get a credit for each unit that comes on line. That credit can then be sold to another developer who uses it to fulfill employee-mitigation requirements on a separate project.
The Browns have made changes to their 2011 land-use approval for their timeshare property in order to get a new chairlift down to Dean Street instead of farther up the hill.
One of the more significant changes to their program is instead of eight dormitory-style units in the old Skiers Steakhouse, the building will house a restaurant and bar.
“The dormitory use was not a great use in that space,” said Patrick Rawley, a planner with Stan Clauson Associates, which is representing Lift One Lodge.
Under the current plan, there will be one 791-square-foot unit on site.
APCHA board member Becky Gilbert said she doesn’t have a lot of faith in developers finding adequate space elsewhere in town to house employees.
“There is no off-site, there is nothing left,” she said. “I love this project but it needs more housing.”
Just how much housing Lift One Lodge developers must provide hasn’t been calculated by the city of Aspen yet.
That is one reason APCHA board member Ron Erickson said he can’t support cash-in-lieu. He added that the off-site housing being removed is a big change to the program.
“Those seven units could become cash-in-lieu,” Erickson said. “I don’t want their money.”
That mitigation money has historically sat in the city’s coffers for years before any housing comes online.
The Browns have approval for cash-in-lieu from 2011, although it will ultimately be up to City Council to grant it as an option for the proposed changes.
Brown told the APCHA board that he doesn’t want the project, specifically the new chairlift, to be delayed because of limitations on how to mitigate for employees.
Erickson reiterated that APCHA’s acceptance of priority on affordable housing is building on-site, off-site, or buying credits. Cash-in-lieu is the last option.
“You’ll have to see what options are out there for you, or get City Council to let you write a check,” he said.
On Monday night, the City Council listened to ideas for each old building. However, nothing laid out what the community space would actually entail — only aspirations and gathered community comment.