Aspen extends development rights for Jewish center on Main Street
ASPEN – The City Council on Monday granted the Jewish Resource Center Chabad of Aspen a three-year extension of vested development rights to build a community center and synagogue on Main Street.
The center obtained approval in 2007 to build a 34,000-square-foot campus at 435 W. Main St., where the L’Auberge D’Aspen cabins are located.
At the time, the Chabad was given three years of vested rights, which were set to expire Thursday.
But after unsuccessfully trying to buy former tennis pro Andrea Jaeger’s Silver Lining Ranch at the end of Ute Avenue as an alternative location for the facility, Rabbi Mendel Mintz and his development team need time to regroup.
“The applicant now asks for additional time to pursue the Main Street project during what has become a dramatically different economic climate than when the project was originally approved,” wrote Alan Richman, the Chabad’s land planner, in a letter to the council.
The Chabad spent a considerable amount of time and effort planning the construction of the Main Street property but that was diverted in 2008 when the Silver Lining Ranch became available.
Litigation threats from neighbors of the new site, however, forced the Chabad to terminate the contract to buy the 14,000-square-foot property, which is located on 6.5 acres.
The $13.5 million deal was supposed to close in June, and the Chabad had the property under contract until September – one month after Jaeger’s nonprofit sued the Stillwater Ranch Open Space Association, claiming that neighboring homeowners were blocking the sale.
Even though it was granted vested rights until March 1, 2013, the council didn’t agree to waive Chabad’s outstanding $13,635 bill with the city for land-use planners who handled the Silver Lining Ranch development application at $245 an hour.
Chris Bendon, the city’s community development director, said the application process required extra time and additional staff hours, which were billed to the Chabad.
The Chabad requested that the fees be waived, citing financial pressures and a protracted process as a result of the controversy the neighbors generated.
“Due to the economy, our organization has been deeply affected, and we have had numerous requests from people in the community for assistance with tuition and basic needs,” Mintz wrote in a letter to the council.
The council put the issue off until at least next month, after a scheduled meeting with financiers who will give elected officials an update on the city budget.
The council might consider a partial reimbursement under a supplemental budget request, or have Mintz apply for a grant from the city as a nonprofit, as dozens of organizations do each year.
Council members said it’s not appropriate to waive planning fees regardless of whether the Chabad is a nonprofit and were reluctant to set a precedent.
“Those fees were a result of doing business,” Councilman Torre said.
Mayor Mick Ireland said the city shouldn’t create an illusion that nonprofit organizations or any applicant can get their fees waived.
“Development should pay its own way,” he said, adding that seeking approval comes at a cost. “There is a certain amount of risk in the land-use process …”
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