Appropriate restrictions should apply
If the property beneath the Rio Grande Commons building is to be transferred from the entire Aspen community to a private entity, appropriate restrictions should be placed on this transfer to ensure that the property remains an ongoing benefit to our community.
Recent examples set by two local nonprofits suggest that entities given property can undergo a change in direction (or just start seeing dollar signs) such that they decide to change the underlying use of the property:
The Aspen Historical Society attempted to sell development rights by severing TDRs from the Wheeler Stallard Museum. My understanding is that this failed not because of the desire by the nonprofit, but rather because the original donor of the property placed restrictions on the land that ultimately prohibited such a sale.
The Silver Lining Ranch attempted to convert their property to single family use for the purpose of selling out to the highest taker. My understanding is that this failed not because of the desire by the nonprofit, but rather because local elected officials directed that the property use remain as a nonprofit.
Both of these nonprofits attempted to convert some of their real estate into cash. Both failed, not due to their own will but due to outside prohibitions.
At a minimum, the use of the property both now and for the long-term future should be formally documented (versus relying on non-binding verbal assurances) to prevent unintended uses of a piece of property currently owned by the entire Aspen community.
I believe the best way to maintain control over the property is to not put the outright sale of city property on the ballot and instead consider a long-term land lease at free-market rates. This could allow the AAM to build while protecting the city if the AAM later opts to alter their use of the property, such as charging an admission fee, subleasing or selling their property outright.
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U.S. Forest Service ready to make happy campers with the opening of facilities in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.