Round 3 for Stage 3 | AspenTimes.com

Round 3 for Stage 3

Abigail Eagye

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Developers of the Stage 3 property on Main Street will come before the Aspen City Council for a third time Feb. 12. Affordable housing and a failure to fit into the context of the neighborhood were among the reasons two council members said they couldn’t support the proposal.At a meeting Monday night, the paltry three-member council opted not to approve plans for a three-story building with commercial and office space, four one-bedroom affordable housing units and five free-market units. Developers also proposed rooftop decks for the four free-market units on the third floor of the building, although neighbors across the street at the Concept 600 building were generally opposed to the decks.The developer, Aspen Main Street Properties LP, had scaled the project back since the last meeting in November, setting back the third floor and clustering the rooftop elements toward the center of the building. They also proposed a green roof for the parts of the roof not devoted to decks, an amenity that would mitigate environmental impacts.Planner Mitch Haas, representing the developers, told the council the proposal met or exceeded all of the city’s code requirements for the zone, with roof heights below regulation and parking and affordable housing mitigation beyond what the city requires.In response to concerns at the last meeting, Haas said the developer even planned to provide scooters for each of the residential units with space to store them in the garage.But with a short-handed council Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss was sick and Councilwoman Jasmine Tygre had to recuse herself because she voted on the project as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission the project needed a unanimous vote from the three members present in order to win approval. Councilmen Jack Johnson and Torre didn’t appear ready to give it a thumbs up.The main sticking point for Johnson was affordable housing.Although the project met the city’s formula for housing mitigation, Johnson said it fails in his interpretation of the code. He said the new development, with several commercial and office spaces, would undoubtedly generate more employees than the former movie theater at the site.The four affordable housing units, intended to accommodate at least seven employees, garnered far less square footage than the five free-market units, which Johnson predicted would sit empty much of the year. “I don’t think that reinforces a healthy social balance,” Johnson said, referring to the Aspen Area Community Plan, a guiding document for development within the city.”The mix is largely dictated by the code,” said Haas, who reiterated that the project meets the formulas in the code. “We don’t write the rules. We just expect that they mean something.”Johnson was not swayed.”Is it a failure of the project or a failure of the code?” a frustrated Haas asked Johnson.”I think it’s a failure of the proposal,” Johnson replied, standing by what he called a “rational interpretation of the stated requirements under the code.”Developers submitted the application in April under the city’s infill codes, before the council imposed a moratorium on building applications and permits while it reviews the codes. Haas said the project meets the requirements not only of the infill codes but also the stricter requirements of the previous codes, namely the height requirements.Torre’s greater concern was compatibility in the neighborhood. He noted that no other building on the block or neighboring blocks is built lot line to lot line, as the proposed building would be. That might be more acceptable in the city’s commercial core, he said, but the Main Street location is outside the core in a transitional area. In addition to the scale of the building relative to its neighbors, Torre pointed to photos of several other nearby buildings constructed with different materials as examples of the “context” the new building should match.He also suggested consolidating the rooftop deck into one parcel that serves all the residents, not just the owners of the free-market units.Neighbors at the adjacent building to the east said they were trying to work with developers to meet their needs, saying they were primarily concerned with potential construction impacts to their building and any changes that might affect it permanently, such as connecting gas lines between the two buildings.Neighbors at Concept 600, however, collectively opposed virtually every aspect of the development, particularly the rooftop decks and the elimination of a walkway from Main Street to the alley on the south side of Stage 3.Mayor Helen Klanderud supported the proposal, but in light of Johnson’s and Torre’s objections, she agreed to send the developers back to the drawing board.Jeff Jones, managing partner for the group that owns the property, saw some irony in some of Torre’s statements. Originally, he said, his group proposed a sandstone color for the building, but the P&Z wanted the more colorful red exterior, and his group made that change. He interpreted Torre’s comments to mean his group should return to the original sandstone plan to better fit the context of the existing neighborhood.Despite failing to earn approval, Jones seemed upbeat and complimented the council and the city’s community development staff.”I don’t envy all of the demands that this city council is under,” he said, holding Aspen up as a “unique” community where people pay a lot of money to live.”We’ll look forward to coming back,” he said. “We’ll endeavor to make it better, but we think we’re pretty close.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

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