Aspen City Council is being asked to sign off on a $10.8 million purchase of three acres of land to be used for affordable housing. At Tuesday’s council meeting, affordable housing project manager Chris Everson will present the contract with Aspen Mini Storage, whose lot abuts the city owned Lumberyard property.
In October the council agreed to a $11 million purchase price pending appraisal. The appraisal came back with a value of $10,650,000. The seller agreed to split the difference on the condition that the closing date be moved to Feb. 4, several weeks earlier than originally agreed upon.
Everson said the sellers would have been well within their right to hold out for the full $11 million, and he wanted the council and the community to see the full transparent negotiating process.
“We want to make sure that we are giving council the opportunity to understand where exactly the appraisal came in,” Everson said. “We thought that it would be very natural for the council to say, ‘well did you go back to the seller and ask them for a reduction?’”
Members of the public have criticized what they see as an overpayment for the Lumberyard property in 2007. Even so, Everson said the public should be in on the negotiation process of the newest public purchase.
“We don't want to hide any information and that’s why we wanted to release the information about the appraisal amount,” he said.
Along with the appraisal the city also obtained an environmental assessment of the lot. Nothing concerning the mini storage property came up, but looking at the history of the Lumberyard turned up a prior use of underground storage tanks. Those have been removed and some mitigation has been done, but Everson said there will be more mitigation needed as the site gets developed.
“We probably are going to need to be on the lookout for potential other contaminants,” he said.
Though the land sale still needs approval from council, the team working on the future housing development on the Lumberyard property has been sketching conceptual designs that include the three-acre property. Those designs are being unveiled to the public through a series of open houses beginning tomorrow.
“The timing really couldn’t be better for us to be expediting the property purchase,” Everson said.
The city is hosting two events Wednesday at Roxy’s Market in the AABC and two on Thursday at City Hall. The project team will have new displays showing potential site plans as well as traffic flow through the new neighborhood, and between Highway 82 and the Aspen Airport Business Center. The meetings at Roxy’s are meant specifically to make it easier for neighbors to attend, and Evenson said the mini storage purchase will help ease concerns about the onslaught of vehicles the new development could bring.
“It’s going to be an important piece for us being able to positively address a lot of the concerns of the folks that live in the neighborhood,” he said.
Additionally, more land may mean pleasing more people, in the long run. The city has been collecting public comment for months on what would be the most beneficial use of the land for public housing.
Everson said, as is to be expected, the variety of what is needed matches closely with the wide variety of stakeholders that have weighed in.
“We are hearing that we should have lots of different unit types, we should have rental, we should have for sale, so the notion of who this site is going to serve is fairly broad at this stage,” Everson said. “Adding another three acres to the site allows us to more realistically address that broad user group, whereas with a smaller canvas to work with we may have been more limited in our ability to do that.”
The purchase contract is on the council’s consent calendar tonight which means they are able to pass it without discussion, though Everson said it is likely they will pull the matter for conversation. Aspen Mini Storage leases will be honored and the business will continue to run under the city’s stewardship as development plans continue to progress. Aspen Mini Storage has been offered the same agreement as the Builders FirstSource lumberyard on city property, whose lease runs out in 2025.
In the meantime, the project team continues to gather community input regarding how the two properties combined can best serve the housing needs of the community.
“It helps us look more holistically at the solutions that the community is asking us to try to incorporate there,” Everson said.