Aspen Skiing Co. revises Basalt affordable housing proposal to try to earn approval

This image shows where Aspen Skiing Co. is proposing an affordable housing project in Willits Town Center. Whole Foods is in the upper center of the photo. Highway 82 is on the upper end. Willits Lane is off the photo on the bottom end.

Aspen Skiing Co. is proposing a third alternative for an affordable housing project in Basalt to try to earn approval from Town Council.

Skico submitted the revision before the project is scheduled for a final vote Tuesday evening at Town Hall.

Skico altered the mix of units, expanded off-street parking and added some commercial space to its proposed building in Willits Town Center.

Skico isn’t asking for a direct subsidy from the town government but is seeking some financial concessions. It wants exclusive use of 35 parking spaces on public streets for its residences at no cost. It also wants a $150,000 day care impact fee waived because it is voluntarily providing six affordable housing units with a priority for workers in day care.

“We hope you see this project as a meaningful contribution towards our valley’s housing shortage and one that your council helped facilitate,” said a narrative to the revisions by Skico project manager Philip Jeffreys. “There is no perfect workforce housing project which is exactly why so few come forward voluntarily.”

Jeffreys said Skico hopes the project is precedent setting and inspires the private sector to follow suit with similar projects to help ease the affordable housing crunch and protect the valley’s economic vitality.

This is the third alternative proposed by Skico. The first application received a lukewarm response from council. Skico submitted an alternative in May, but at the May 28 meeting company officials announced that alternative wasn’t economically viable, essentially taking it off the plate.

The latest revised proposal increases the number of units to 43 from 36 but only increases the number of bedrooms to 150 from 148. Skico eliminated six-bedroom units after Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said at a May 14 meeting that the project had to match the character of the surrounding neighborhood. Neighbors complained that the proposal resembled a dorm. It remains to be seen if the elimination of six-bedroom units changes their mind.

With the revision, Skico is proposing five one-bedroom units, two two-bedroom apartments, five with three bedrooms and 31 units with four bedrooms.

Parking was the other big issue of contention at earlier government reviews. Neighbors and some council members have called for underground parking. Skico said that would be a deal-breaker because it would add about $40,000 per parking space to the cost of the each unit.

“For the project to achieve its goals, rents must be affordable,” Jeffreys wrote to the town. “The additional $3 million to $4 million spent on a parking garage makes a project at Willits far less attractive to us for employee housing.”

As an alternative, Skico is proposing to expand its off-street parking by 12 spaces to a total of 46.

The reasoning behind using 45 on-street spaces is complex. Willits Town Center is already approved by the town, included the block 9 site eyed by Skico. Under that approval, the entire first floor is supposed to be commercial and 45 spaces on the surrounding public streets would be designated for commercial parking.

Skico is proposing to retain 2,081 square feet of commercial space on first-floor, corner spaces in the building. That amount of commercial would earn 10 parking spaces on the street, per town approvals.

Skico is converting the remaining first-floor commercial space to residential. It’s asking that the 35 on-street parking spaces also be converted to residential. It wants to use those spaces at no cost.

There has been extensive public opposition in prior meetings to the town giving up any public parking to a private entity for residential use. Council also was divided on the issue.

In a May 28 vote, council was deadlocked 2-2 on the Skico housing project so it didn’t earn approval. Councilmen Gary Tennenbaum and Bill Infante voted to approve the project while Whitsitt and Councilman Ryan Slack were opposed. Councilwomen Jennifer Riffle and Katie Schwoerer were unable to attend that meeting. Councilman Auden Schendler recused himself because he is a Skico executive.

With six council members anticipated Tuesday, the issue should be resolved. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. at Town Hall.

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