Aspen closer to multimillion-dollar land swap |

Aspen closer to multimillion-dollar land swap

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The man who sold his home to the city of Aspen for $3.5 million and then offered to buy it back for $2.8 million is being asked to leave the property.

City officials last month sent Jordie Gerberg a notice to move out of the home, located at 312 W. Hyman Ave. He has been ordered to move by June 30, according to city officials.

That’s because the city government is entertaining an offer from Peter Fornell, who represents his brother-in-law, John Cooper, to trade a four-plex apartment building located at 301 W. Hyman Ave. for the city’s chalet-style house that Gerberg owned for 21 years.

Gerberg ” who rents the house from the city for $2,000 a month, along with another tenant who pays $1,000 ” sold it to the city in March 2007. His lease, which was extended in October 2007, expires May 31.

Scott Miller, the city’s capital asset director, said the city recently gave Gerberg and the other tenant a 60-day notice to move. The lease may go month to month if the city does not finalize its plans for the property by then.

“We’re trying to give ourselves time to figure out what to do with the property,” Miller said.

Gerberg also submitted a formal proposal to the city as part of a public bidding process earlier this year. Interested parties had until Jan. 21 to submit proposals that included either an offer to purchase the property, or trade their property in exchange for the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house located at 312 W. Hyman Ave.

Fornell and Gerberg were the only bidders on the property. City Manager Steve Barwick said government officials are only considering Fornell’s offer. Appraisals on both properties are currently being conducted, Barwick said.

Greg Hunter, the city’s real estate broker, said two different firms are handling the appraisals ” Alpine Appraisal is determining the value for the 312 W. Hyman Ave. house and Sky Appraisal is researching 301 W. Hyman Ave. Both properties have restrictions on them.

“The city wants to make sure to take into consideration all of the things attached to that property,” Hunter said of 301 W. Hyman Ave.

Once the appraisals are complete, the decision rests with the City Council, which will either approve or deny a land swap, during an executive session.

If the government swapped for Cooper’s four-plex, city officials could redevelop the property into affordable housing, as well as the three lots surrounding it since they also are owned by the public.

Fornell has said in the past that Cooper’s building was bought for $1.7 million and is of equal value ” if not more ” to the city’s property because of the affordable housing development opportunities.

Because the 312 W. Hyman Ave. house is historically designated and there are large trees on the property, there are limitations to development. For instance, it’s unlikely that the house can be relocated, or that basement excavation can occur under it because of the trees.

However, there is potential for a developer to receive approval for more square footage than what is allowed in the city’s code because of historic preservation incentives.

City officials were criticized after the purchase of the 1,956-square-foot, two-story house, which was built in 1956 by Genevieve Birlauf Leininger and her father.

The acquisition was in direct response to Gerberg’s intent to sell it and have it demolished to make way for a new home.

Fornell and Cooper stand to receive millions of dollars worth of transferable development rights attached to the historic property if the land swap were to occur.

Fornell said he and Cooper plan to add on to the home at 312 W. Hyman Ave. The building is a legal non-conforming duplex, with one unit and a garage on the ground level, and a second unit on the upper floor. The 6,000-square-foot lot allows a maximum of 3,240 square feet to be built on it.

The Aspen City Council voted 3-2 to buy it and then designate it historic, based on a recommendation by the city’s historic preservation officer, Amy Guthrie.

The mayor at the time, Helen Klanderud, and then-councilman Torre voted against the purchase. Once the city bought the house, it designated the building as historic, which prevents it from being torn down. Historic preservation officials note that the home’s architecture exemplifies the social and architectural history of Aspen as it began developing as a ski resort.

The stipulation attached to Gerberg’s offer to buy the property back was that the historic designation be lifted and never be considered again. The other option Gerberg proposed was to move the house off the property at the city’s expense.


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