Aspen voters asked to approve Anderson land swap
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – There’s more to Tuesday’s city election ballot than the high-profile races for mayor and City Council.
Voters will be asked to take care of a little housecleaning measure for the city of Aspen, approving a land swap that will allow local government to move forward with plans for a park at the corner of South Riverside Avenue and Highway 82 on the eastern end of town.
The area that would be developed is known as Anderson Subdivision. It consists of two lots; one is a 54,500-square-foot area already owned by the city and the other is a 6,092-square-foot parcel owned by orthodontist Robert Orr, who formerly practiced in Aspen.
The city needs the area owned by Orr because it is partly flat with a gentle slope and would be a good fit for the adjacent riverside park area, which is flat. Another section of the city-owned area is on a hill next to Riverside Avenue, overlooking the flat portion, and not seen as a good fit for the park.
Thus, if voters approve the exchange, Orr would get the city-owned hilltop land, where his family would likely build a small house, and the city would get his gently sloping land and use it for the park. It would be an exact trade, involving no public money: 6,092 square feet for 6,092 square feet.
“The basic deal is, the city bought the land here in 1999 from the Anderson family with open-space funds to do a park,” said Alan Richman, a local land planner working for the Orr family. The city proceeded to initiate efforts for a park master plan, and then discovered that the second, smaller lot existed, Richman said.
Since the Orrs are planning to build a house on the site, it makes more sense to build it atop the hill rather than the area where it would protrude onto the park, he said.
Orr bought his lot in 1979 from the Anderson family and didn’t want to sell it to the city after the city bought the surrounding property in 1999. Instead, over the last few years, he worked with the city to plan the land exchange, Richman said.
If voters approve the swap, the Orrs will lower the area where the house would be built because it’s six feet above street level. “We agreed we would take the mound down to street level so that the house doesn’t loom over the other houses in the neighborhood,” Richman said.
The building envelope is small, only about 40 feet wide by 80 feet long. A basement would be built but it will be designed so that it’s not exposed to parkgoers, he said.
“Basically you have a deal where the city wins and the owner is happy about it,” Richman said. “It works for both sides.”
Orr had a dental practice in Aspen in the 1980s and 1990s but moved it to Grand Junction, where he now resides.
“Once this is done, the constraint on the park will be removed, and then the Parks Department intends to work with the neighbors and do a master plan for the property,” Richman said.
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Basalt mayoral candidates Bill Kane and Rob Leavitt said at a Feb. 10 forum they endorsed the town government’s $1.34 million expenditure to expand a riverfront park. Candidate and councilman Bill Infante said not so fast and provided an alternative view.