‘Affordable’ housing goes off charts

ASPEN – A house built through the Pitkin County Housing Authority is on the market for $1.05 million.

“We hated putting this in the paper,” Cindy Christians, operations manager for the housing office, told The Aspen Times (May 9).

So how does it work? Aspen and Pitkin County wanted to ensure residency of the local professionals, who earn too much to qualify for the housing authority’s lower-priced category housing but don’t make enough to buy a free-market home. So, several projects have included resident-occupied housing. By the rules, sellers on this particular house – a four-bedroom, 3.5-bath, one-car-garage home – were able to recoup 4 percent annual appreciation. Sellers of other homes in the program can get up to 3 percent.

Several other homes among Aspen’s 1,200 units of affordable housing also are valued at around $1 million. By comparison, the median price of a single-family home on the free market in Aspen last year was $2.6 million.

In the fallout of the news about this $1 million-plus, the Aspen City Council is considering capping the price of houses in another resident/affordable housing project coming on line, the Burlingame Ranch, reports the Aspen Daily News (May 9). The council seems firmly convinced that not just dishwashers need help in Aspen, but Mayor Helen Klanderud is steering the council to prioritize who the beneficiaries are. “What will we have next year, a $2 million ‘affordable’ house?” she asked.

Vail experiments with dog parks

VAIL, Colo. – At the far ends of Vail, about 10 miles apart, the Town Council is experimenting with making two community parks dog friendly and leash free.

At the park in East Vail the experiment seems to be working. One neighborhood resident attributes the success to the cohesive nature of the neighborhood. Peer pressure seems to work. At West Vail, however, the park has become filled with feces, and unruly, loose-running dogs may be frightening some people.

The town has agreed to post most signs, reports the Vail Daily (May 11), but one town councilman says residents will have to figure out answers themselves, or the experiment will likely be a quick failure.

Global warming to claim ski areas

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – You know those small ski resorts in the south end of the Sierra Nevada, within driving distance of L.A.? Forget about skiing there a century from now. There won’t be enough snow because of global warming, reports the Tahoe World (May 9).

Since 1950, but especially after the mid-1970s, the West has experienced marked climatic changes, warming by 1 to 3 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, spring gets sprung earlier. A study by the University of Washington found that from 1950 to 2000, the statesnow pack as of April 1, which is usually the peak, has diminished by 38 percent.

During the 21st century, global warming will continue, perhaps a result of natural variability, but increasingly scientists agree that people-caused greenhouse gases are causing a large part of the warming. And, even if emission of greenhouse gases were cut today, the effect is still there for many years into the future. One scientist, Dr. Dan Cayan, director of the Climate Research Institute at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, predicts that California will warm by 3 degrees Celsius.

This spring warming also has implications for cities. In the West, most of the precipitation comes from mountain snowpacks. These snowpacks typically melted more leisurely into spring and early summer. But with spring coming earlier, the runoff is more rapid. In effect, the mountains served as a reservoir, but that reservoir is vanishing.

Man accused of shooting at workers

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – A Steamboat Springs man is accused of shooting two workers on a river-excavating project behind his home.

The city had hired a company to place boulders in the riverbed to improve fish habitat and create additional recreation areas for tubers and kayakers, explains The Steamboat Pilot (May 8). Police say the man fired two shots at the workers, injuring neither. The accused admitted in court that alcohol had clouded his judgment. Moreover, he can’t recall much of what happened.

Ted Nugent shocks radio listeners

WINTER PARK – There’s some confusion about the lineup for Winter Park’s big music show this summer. Denver-based rock’n’ roll station KBPI-FM, which has something of a rock-shock approach, was co-sponsoring the event, and it had figured to have rock-shocker Ted Nugent as the emcee.

Nugent says lots of things with the intent of shocking people. Most prominently he has defended hunting of big-game animals (he’s a bow-hunter). This time, in arguing that using words takes away their power, he repeatedly used several racial slurs. This has Denver in a bit of a tiff. No word yet on what this does to Winter Park’s summer music festival.

Redistricting aids Republican cause

ASPEN – It is said that Boulder is a halfway house for ex-Aspenites and ex-Vailites. Now, they’re at least in the same congressional district.

Last year, when squabbling Democrats and Republicans couldn’t come to terms with redistricting in Colorado, a federal judge drew up a map that broke apart the traditionally solid Western Slope. Using I-70 to help define community of interests, the judge extended U.S. Rep. Mark Udall’s district from Boulder up I-70 to include Summit County and also Vail-dominated Eagle County and, off to the side a bit, Winter Park-dominated Grand County.

That left Democratic-tilting Aspen in the Republican-tilting Third Congressional District, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis. Although professing otherwise, McInnis seems as scornful of Aspen as Aspen is of him. That is, of course, a generalization.

But a former miner from Leadville, Ken Chlouber, wants to move to Washington, D.C. in a powerful way – as a U.S. representative. A flamboyant and successful politician, and also a Republican, he is now aiming to replace McInnis when McInnis runs for governor. According to at least some theories, that explains the mountainous part of this redistricting shuffle.

Mountainfilm’s helm changes hands

TELLURIDE – Mike Shimkonis has at least temporarily taken on the duties of executive director at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, replacing Hal Clifford.

Clifford resigned in late April, about a month before the start of the event’s 25th anniversary celebration on Memorial Day weekend. He said he had recommended changes that he believed were essential for the organization, and when the Board of Directors refused them, he thought it best for the organization if he left, according to a report in The Telluride Watch (May 2).

Shimkonis is on the Board of Directors for the film festival. He lately has been involved in the real estate industry in Telluride, but before that he worked in sales and marketing for the Telluride Ski & Golf Co., directing special events, and in the early 1990s he worked in public relations for Vail Associates, which is now known a Vail Resorts. Clifford, before joining the film festival last fall, had been a free-lance writer and the author of several books.

Canyoneers set sights on Bluejohn

ASPEN – Aron Ralston’s incredible experience in hacking off his own arm is transforming Bluejohn Canyon from a “hidden gem” to a source of great curiosity among canyoneers, reports the Aspen Times (May 9).

Located on BLM property near Canyonlands National Park, the canyon was already on the map among skilled climbers. But since Ralston’s story has circled the globe, the National Park Service has experienced a surge in inquiries about the canyon. Once most callers learn that the trailhead for the canyon is more than 25 miles from the nearest paved road, their curiosity erodes.

But Ralston’s story has piqued the interest of serious canyoneers. And a team from the Aspen Times visited the site, even picking up Ralston’s climbing harness. Had there been a rainstorm when Ralston was trapped, he would have been doomed, says the newspaper.

The Park Service retrieved Ralston’s hand and lower arm. “Obviously, we didn’t want to leave it out there for other people to run into,” said a Park Service spokesman Paul Henderson. “It would probably have ended up on e-Bay.”





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