Aspen Power Plant proposal won’t need to clear zoning hurdle

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

The Aspen Power Plant proposal for the former art museum building has been rife with dueling positions of late, but it appears the rezoning issue has become null and void.

City Attorney Jim True at a work session Monday explained to Aspen City Council that the property is actually zoned public and has been since 1988. The revelation was discovered after True had City Clerk Linda Manning do a chronological analysis of the property’s zoning history.

“In 1988 the property was zoned public, and that is the official zone of the property,” True said.

The revelation — it had been widely held, even maintained as fact by the city, that the 590 N. Mill St. property was zoned residential — removes one critical step from the process for the Aspen Power Plant. The property won’t need to be rezoned for the proposal that calls for space for Aspen Brewing Co., the Aspen 82 television station and incubator offices.

The Aspen Power Plant proposal has gotten pushback from some residents who argue the city-owned space should be used for nonprofit organizations. Neighbors also are wary of the proposal because they contend the alcohol service would disrupt their quality of life and harm their property values.

Others, however, see the Aspen Power Plant as injecting life in a staid area of town and providing a springboard for business types who need affordable space.

A lease still needs to be negotiated and requires City Council approval. Councilman Bert Myrin has recused himself from the matter because he is helping market a home that is in the immediate vicinity.

True said Myrin could participate in Monday’s discussion, however, because it didn’t concern the lease and was of public interest. Myrin, who has said publicly that he is against the Aspen Power Plant proposal, called it a “poor choice” by the city to “support zoning that’s different from what everybody in town relies on.”

True countered, “This is zoned public and we can’t change the map. We can’t change that. … And the ordinance in 1988 clearly zoned it public.” True also offered that the council, in theory, could change the zoning. He advised against it.

Myrin and True were to have a private discussion about the new development. True suggested Myrin might not need to recuse himself any longer because of the zoning change.

Councilman Art Daily had a different take than Myrin. Now that the zoning issue is settled, Daily said, “This is far and away in the best interest of the community.”