Boomerang housing critics appeal Aspen P&Z decision
ASPEN – Citing a legal technicality, opponents of plans to turn the former Boomerang Lodge site on West Hopkins Avenue into an employee-housing development have appealed to the Aspen City Council to overturn last month’s Planning and Zoning Commission resolution that recommends approval of the project.The appeal, to be considered at Monday’s regular council meeting, was filed by Aspen attorney Jody Edwards on behalf of Steven and Cheryl Goldenberg, Dan Verner and John Staton, all owners of properties near the Boomerang property. It basically asserts that P&Z failed to follow proper procedure by allowing a parking waiver under planned-unit development (PUD) provisions of city code instead of using “special review” criteria, the standard that allegedly had been discussed during previous hearings on the issue and in all associated documentation.A letter from Edwards to Community Development Director Chris Bendon states that it was “an abuse of discretion and in excess of the jurisdiction of the P&Z to approve the resolution in the absence of procedural compliance with the city code and upon standards that were not in compliance with the special review criteria.”A PUD for the Boomerang redevelopment was approved by City Council in 2006, when the new owners still had plans for a four-story, 54-unit lodge. Since then, the downturn in the economy has affected the developer’s ability to secure financing for a lodging facility and the city has created an affordable-housing tax credit program, causing the developer to change direction.The developer, a Virginia-based company represented locally by Steve Stunda, has scaled down plans for the building, removing the fourth floor and reducing the number of housing units to 46. Overall floor space has been reduced as well, from 54,000 to 41,500 square feet. Parking plans call for 33 underground spaces and 13 on the street.Still, opponents question whether the project is a good fit for what they consider to be a low-density neighborhood. At the heart of their concerns is parking, with opponents having voiced a desire for two spaces per unit instead of one. The old Boomerang lot sits on West Hopkins Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets. Nearby, at 605 W. Hopkins, are the Little Ajax condominiums, a 14-unit workforce housing development subsidized by the city. There also is a pedestrian/bicycle byway that runs along West Hopkins, limiting use of the street by motorists.The developer could proceed with the larger lodge development already approved by City Council if financing for the project were available and an uptick in the tourism economy were to suddenly make the concept feasible.Edwards told The Aspen Times on Thursday that the developer “needs to satisfy criteria for special review,” not a PUD. He said he was still studying the city’s response to his letter of appeal. Project opponent Steven Goldenberg could not be reached for comment.A memorandum to council members from Jennifer Phelan, deputy planning director for the city, addresses the P&Z’s decision and the opponents’ grounds for appeal. She points out that P&Z is the recommending entity and that City Council is the final decision-making body.”Appellants have pointed to no law that the P&Z either misconstrued or misapplied,” Phelan’s memo states. “… the appellants appear to be suggesting that the problem was created when the staff or the applicant allegedly changed direction by initially suggesting that the parking was going to be decided based on the special review criteria, then making a final determination based on the PUD criteria.”However, the memo states, it was clear that the matter was proceeding along PUD procedures. “Appellant cannot point to how the final decision, which was to recommend to council a particular position, denied the appellants due process, abused discretion or exceeded jurisdiction.”The City Council’s regular meeting on Monday, the first of 2011, begins at 5 p.m. at City Hall.firstname.lastname@example.org
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