A battle over the ‘Blue Vic’
The development review of the “Blue Vic” historic home in downtown Aspen was postponed Monday night after it became clear the Aspen City Council might reject the current plan.Developer Tim Semrau, a former Aspen City Council member, asked for a continuance to determine whether his neighbors or someone else might be willing to pay for him not to develop part of the property.Although the application never reached a formal vote, it appeared after more than two hours of debate that council members Rachel Richards, Torre and Jack Johnson might vote against Semrau’s proposal.Semrau was hoping to move the striking blue Victorian on the corner of Monarch and Bleeker streets to a new spot on its 15,000-square-foot-parcel.Semrau then planned to split off a 6,000-square-foot section of the lot for redevelopment as a commercial building. He also sought to open up a long unused alley right of way to access both the upper, western end of the property and the lower, eastern end.
The steep hillside between Mill and Monarch streets would necessitate the bifurcation of the alley.The alley right of way, which has been platted since the 1880s but not used as an alley for decades, connects Monarch and Mill on maps. In reality, the alley off north Mill Street would lead to below-grade parking spaces in the commercial structure, while the Monarch access would dead-end at some place on the upper part of the property.The two alleys could be separated by a wall, or a small segment of the right of way left unopened, to prevent a thoroughfare, according to discussion at the meeting Monday night.Among the concerns council members expressed Monday night was that Semrau, once he won approval of the proposed lot split, might ask to resplit both lots as allowed under city regulations.Council member also were divided over what Richards termed “the bigger picture” – concerns that the historic, expansive yards of the West End were being “carved up” by developers hoping to cash in on the construction of new, large homes.
Semrau admitted he planned to build another house to the north of the old Victorian.”It’s going to be two little houses,” he said, noting that the existing house is about 2,000 square feet, and that there is room for another house of roughly the same size along the Monarch Street side.”That’s all that can ever go there,” he added, stating that the council’s fear that he would subdivide the 6,000 square-foot parcel was unfounded.He offered to cut the parcel down by 5 square feet, putting it below the 6,000 square-foot threshold for a historic lot split, but was told that could not be done.He then agreed to a proposal from Mayor Helen Klanderud to place a deed restriction on the lot prohibiting future splits.
The proposal remained controversial, though, as Johnson asked Semrau to consider not building the second of the “little houses” to preserve the expansive feeling of the historic property.Johnson suggested Semrau approach his neighbors, whose property values Johnson said would benefit from leaving the yard open, to see if they might be willing to pay him for his restraint. Another suggestion was that Semrau explore selling a transferable development right to a developer with another project.Semrau acquiesced, and the council agreed to his request for a continuance. The council will reconsider the matter March 13.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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