Coffey place

A proposed new affordable housing project known as Coffey Place would add 17 new units around the existing Rodeo Place neighborhood. The proposed new units are shown in this image in white.

After sailing through a first hearing at the Snowmass Village Town Council meeting on Aug. 5, a rezoning ordinance related to the proposed Coffey Place employee housing development encountered some stumbling blocks at Monday night’s council meeting during its second hearing.

While the council and members of the public who spoke at the meeting were unanimously in favor of adding employee housing to the town’s inventory, they did have some concerns about density, noise issues and drainage concerns. 

Rather than voting to approve the ordinance, which would allow the town to rezone its own land where the homes will be built from Recreation and Single-Family Residential to Multi-Family Residential and Conservation, the council requested a site visit to get a better sense of where the buildings will sit and how close to one another they will be.

At the behest of the council and Mayor Markey Butler, town staff scheduled a site visit for Monday, Aug. 26, at 4 p.m. and continued the hearing on the ordinance to the next scheduled council meeting on Monday, Sept. 3.

The development, named in honor of Joe Coffey, the town’s longtime housing director, who died in January 2017, would include six duplex units in three buildings and 11 single-family homes adjacent to the existing Rodeo Place development near the rodeo grounds and the entrance to Snowmass Village. The design work is being done by Aspen’s Charles Cunniffe Architects, and construction firm R.A. Nelson was selected to be the general contractor on the project.  

The meeting opened with housing director Betsy Crum and Jim Kehoe, a senior project architect with CCA, explaining efforts undertaken to blend the Coffey Place buildings in with the look and feel of the existing Rodeo Place neighborhood. They also outlined engineering work that will be done to mitigate flooding and debris-flow concerns on steep slopes and reiterated that the project will adhere to the town’s code when it comes to encroachment on environmentally sensitive areas along Brush Creek. 

Council members Bob Sirkus and Alyssa Shenk had questions about homeowners associations and the development’s allocation of 1.5 parking spaces per unit, which exceeds the town code and is greater than what exists now in Rodeo Place. Council member Bill Madsen voiced concerns that the easternmost units might be coming too near Brush Creek Road, and that rerouted trails, such as the popular Seven Star mountain bike trail, might be running too close (approximately 10-15 feet) to some of the new single-family homes.

“I feel like that trail is going to be pretty close to the backs of those houses,” said Madsen. “I guess my feeling is that if we’re pushing so hard to get it in there that we can’t get the trail below the development, it seems like we’re squeezing everything in there pretty tight. The sacrifice would be losing the last structure and giving that whole area a little bit more breathing room.”

“If the goal is to keep the trails in the front yard and not in the back yard, I’m confident saying we could rearrange them,” said Town Manager Clint Kinney. “I would hate to think we’re going to lose two homes because of 300 feet of trail.”

Council member Tom Goode voiced his concerns with the size (up to 2,431 square feet with a 625-square-foot, two-car garage) and cost (up to $824,502) of some of the larger units, given their lot sizes. 

“Maybe we’re jamming too much stuff into that five-pound bag,” he said. “I’m not in favor of the high-end units.”

Madsen felt that the units were sized right, but he said he’d made visits to the area and was having a hard time visualizing where the building envelopes would be and how far apart the buildings would be located, which prompted him to bring up the possibility of a site visit. The idea went over well with the rest of the council and gained more traction when a number of Rodeo Place residents stood up to express their concerns with the increased density and loss of what they had been led to believe was supposed to be designated open space.

“Joe Coffey always told me there was going to be open space,” said Michelle Wilson, a resident of one of the Rodeo Place duplexes. “Even when the second phase was built, we still had a discussion about it, and he told me not to worry because it would remain open space and not be built.”

In the end, the council decided that they needed more information before rendering a verdict on the ordinance, so Butler asked the town staff to set up next week’s site visit, with the lots and building envelopes represented, and she invited Rodeo Place residents and any other interested members of the public to attend (meet at the Snowmass Rec Center tennis courts at 4 p.m. to join the tour).

Following the site visit, the ordinance will get another hearing on Sept. 3, which could cause Coffey Place’s ground-breaking, originally hoped to be in mid-September, to be moved back to October or later.

Todd Hartley writes for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at todd@aspendailynews.com.