‘Blue Vic’ neighbors consider initiative
Last week Phil Hodgson said he would live with the decision if he lost his battle to keep an alley closed near his home on Monarch Street. Apparently, his son Wyley didn’t have the same intention.Wyley Hodgson, with the assistance of attorney Tom Smith, has taken the first step toward putting an initiative before Aspen voters that would overturn the Aspen City Council’s decision granting developer Tim Semrau the right to subdivide the “Blue Vic” property and open a never-used alley to provide access to one of the new lots.Wyley said he, along with numerous others who oppose opening the alley off Monarch, decided to take the issue directly to Aspen’s voters because the issue, he said, is bigger than an alley.The City Council voted 3-2 Monday in favor of granting Semrau, a former city councilman, permission to subdivide the property at 202 N. Monarch St., site of a historic blue Victorian home. Semrau’s proposal involved commercial and residential aspects. The approval included an access plan to the proposed residential lot via a new alley that will run next to the Hodgson house at 212 N. Monarch St.An alley has never existed between the properties, although the city does have a right of way there. Hodgson has maintained the land as a lawn.The vote came after three hours of impassioned testimony from 17 people, all of whom were against opening the alley. The final decision drew howls of incredulity from those attending the meeting.Semrau hopes to build an office and residential building on the mixed-use part of the property.There were other access options, and Semrau had stressed all along that he would be happy to create a driveway off Bleeker Street to access the residential portion of his subdivision.”The council cited the city code as the prime reason they voted to open the alley,” Wyley Hodgson said. “Planning and zoning thought Tim could access his property without opening that alley, everyone who spoke at Monday’s meeting opposed opening the alley, and even Tim has said he could use a Bleeker access. It seemed odd, but the council wouldn’t listen. “We feel that Aspen is at great risk of losing its flavor because of all the development this council is allowing,” he said. “We hope this response on our part will get people thinking more about the culture of development that is dominating the city.”On Thursday, Semrau said, “God bless democracy. If my neighbors feel that protecting an alley they’ve been using illegally for years is worthy of a vote by the people of Aspen, so be it. I wish them luck.”Semrau’s point about the illegal use of the alley stems from the fact that Phil Hodgson, apparently with permission from the city, built a small brick parking area where the alley site intersects Monarch and erected a “No Parking” sign.City Clerk Katherine Koch said it was premature to guess when an election would be – assuming enough people sign the petition.Koch said the petition would need 561 valid signatures. Since a certain percentage of signatures are generally stricken from any petition because they come from ineligible voters, Koch said most petitioners usually try to get at least 800 signatures.Koch added that the petitioners would have 30 days after approval of the ballot language to gather those signatures.
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