Local resident wins bid to put cabin on historic register
September 10, 2008
ASPEN ” Longtime local resident and landowner Hawk Greenway won what officials described as an unusual approval Wednesday that allows him to build a 1,000-square-foot cabin in Little Annie Basin, not too far from the historic mining cabin he already owns next to the Little Annie mine.
The unusual part is that, thanks to his willingness to enter the existing cabin on the county’s historic register, he also has a transferable development right (TDR) that he can sell to someone else to add square footage to another building project elsewhere in the county.
And, he can build a 600-square-foot basement under the historic cabin to use as storage space.
Normally, said county planner Suzanne Wolff, a landowner gets either one or the other in the rural and remote zone, where Greenway’s property is located. The code calls for the county to issue a permit to build an additional cabin near a historic one that will be preserved, or a TDR in return for the same preservation agreement for a historic structure.
But in this case, Wolff told the county commissioners at their regular meeting Wednesday, Greenway wants both because he has agreed to give the old cabin formal historic designation, and to put up signs explaining its significance in Aspen’s history.
And, she continued, the county code gives the county the “discretion” to approve Greenway’s request, even though the county’s planning staff recommended that the TDR be denied.
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“I really think it’s a non-starter if the TDR is not included,” Greenway said. “I simply can’t afford to approach saving this place without that.”
Commissioner Dorothea Farris immediately backed Greenway’s request.
“I think it’s worth a TDR,” Farris declared. “There aren’t many places like this left.”
She mentioned a few other historic mining properties that no longer look at all like they did back in the late 1800s, when Aspen was at its mining peak, such as the Newman Mine property that now serves as the Aspen Music School on Castle Creek.
“I really see this proposal as opening the door to a partnership,” agreed Greenway, noting that the cabin and nearby mine portal and tailings pile are the remnants of “one of the most productive mines in Pitkin County.”
Commissioner Rachel Richards said granting Greenway’s request would ensure the cabin does not suffer “demolition by neglect,” as have many other historic structures in the area.
In response to a question from commissioner Michael Owsley, Wolff said she recommended denial for the TDR out of concern for the integrity of the TDR program.
She called Greenway’s request a “wild card” that might result in an unknown number of other, similar proposals and overwhelm the TDR program. She cautioned that the board needs to be “conservative” in its approach to TDRs.
The TDR program was conceived as a way to sterilize development rights from certain properties, mainly in rural, sparsely populated areas, and permit the property owners to sell the rights to someone with property in an area deemed more appropriate for development.
The board decided that Greenway’s plan deserved support, and approved his application unanimously.