Aspen, developer still at impasse over Given
ASPEN – Over the course of three Aspen City Hall public hearings in January, plans to redevelop the Given Institute received a chilly reception from the public and most members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council.The question of whether local residents or officials are about to warm up to proposals from would-be developer SC Acquisitions LLC may be determined on Monday evening. A special Aspen City Council meeting is planned for 5 p.m. to discuss new plans and counter-proposals between the city and representatives of the company.The meeting is expected to include a public hearing, to be followed by an executive session, on the latest round of negotiations on the controversial redevelopment of the 2.25-acre property. Initially, representatives asked for approval to subdivide the property into four lots, three of which would be targeted for luxury home development. The developers sought to allow the city or a group deemed suitable by the city to purchase the undeveloped lot, containing the Given Institute building, for $3.75 million, so that the building could be saved for public or nonprofit use.P&Z and City Council members rejected those plans, asking instead for options on two of the four lots. Along with critics in the audience, they generally scoffed at other details of the proposal, especially plans to cut down a large number of trees to make room for the luxury houses, as well as the request for a large number of development fee waivers and variances to Hallam Lake Bluff setbacks and residential design standards.Correspondence between those at the bargaining table appear to hold little hope for quick resolution on the matter. Attorney Bart Johnson, representing SC Acquisitions, wrote a letter to City Attorney John Worcester on Jan. 26 that addresses suggestions made by City Council members at their regular meeting on Jan. 24.”Our client has essentially done everything that has been asked of it throughout this process,” Johnson wrote. “It became apparent this past Monday evening [Jan. 24] that the changes made so far are not enough to satisfy the city.”Johnson further said that SC Acquisitions has “reached a point where it does not see any reason for it to spend additional time and money trying to work the proposal to make additional changes” – especially given what he called a “pattern” of responding to requests for changes, only to establish another baseline from which the city wants more changes.He then asked Worcester to provide a city counter-proposal detailing what terms it would find acceptable for redevelopment of the property and preservation of the Given building. The city attorney responded in a Feb. 4 letter with several items the council believes are necessary in order for SC Acquisitions to win approval. Those details were apparently ironed out in an executive session last Monday.Some of the city’s sticking points are:• Lease and purchase provisions: The council wants a three-year time frame to identify and assist a nonprofit group in the purchase of Lot 1 (which contains the Given building) and possibly Lot 2. Previously, SC Acquisitions offered the city a one-year period to find a buyer for Lot 1 only. In previous meetings, P&Z and community members said they wanted Lot 2, on the scenic northwest corner of the property, preserved as well. If no buyer is found for the lots, the developer could then proceed with residential development on them.• Purchase price: The council is seeking a purchase price of $3.75 million for Lots 1 and 2. Previously, SC Acquisitions had asked for $5.5 million for Lot 2.• Fee waivers: The council will only support development fee waivers if they are a “performance bonus,” offered as an incentive for an agreement that successfully leads to nonprofit ownership of Lot 1 and possibly Lot 2, including the potential to ensure public access.• Floor-area ratio: Council members want to require that all houses built on the property comply with all aspects of the city’s land-use code. However, they are open to the idea of allowing one house to exceed FAR limits, built at between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet, as long as it is the only house built on the eastern side of the property.• Trees: The council will require all 51 “heritage” trees – so named because of their size and age – to be preserved. Removal of a limited number of those trees would be allowed in a “make-or-break situation” or under the provision that no more than one house be built on the property’s eastern side.SC Acquisitions is seeking to purchase the Given Institute property from the University of Colorado for about $14 million. CU wants to complete the sale before the spring. The land was donated to the university in the early 1970s by the late Elizabeth Paepcke, the philanthropist who helped shape Aspen during its transition into modern times. CU holds a demolition permit on the Given building, built in 1972 by renowned architect Harry Weese. It was selected Thursday for Colorado’s 2011 Most Endangered Places List by Colorado Preservation Inc. There were 44 historic sites in the state nominated this year, but only six were selected for the firstname.lastname@example.org
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