Boomerang returns to P&Z
ASPEN – Critics of a project to build an employee-housing complex on the former Boomerang Lodge site won a partial victory Monday night.The Aspen City Council voted 4-1 to have the Planning and Zoning Commission re-evaluate parking plans.However, the council’s decision to send the parking review back to P&Z – based on a technicality stemming from a city staff error – limits the debate to parking issues only. Matters that opponents brought up on Dec. 14, when the P&Z voted to recommend the project to City Council, such as the building’s size, aesthetics, number of units and other issues, cannot be reconsidered at the P&Z level.The debate was held near the end of Monday’s meeting. Attorney Jody Edwards, representing Steve Goldenberg and other West Hopkins Avenue-area neighbors opposing the project, had appealed last month’s P&Z decision to forward the matter to the council. The council will still have to evaluate the overall merits of the project after P&Z reviews the parking plan on Feb. 8. That meeting will also include a short public hearing.Steve Stunda, who represents the Virginia company developing the project, called the opponents’ appeal “a stall tactic.” In effect, the decision does delay an ultimate council vote to approve or deny the project, but after Monday’s meeting Goldenberg and Edwards denied they were simply trying to stall the process.”I think the screw-up at the [December] meeting really threw off the audience and even the P&Z. No one was really sure what was going on or what had changed,” Goldenberg said. “I’m very pleased with the outcome tonight and we’ll take it one step at a time.” “Screw-up” was Goldenberg’s term for a late-hour decision by the city Community Development Department not to apply special review standards to the developer’s request for a waiver of parking regulations. Instead, the department and the P&Z applied planned-unit development (PUD) standards to the parking plans. Edwards and Goldenberg argued that the public wasn’t given fair notice of the sudden change.Community Development Director Chris Bendon admitted that his department made a mistake when, throughout the staff evaluation process, all city documents pertaining to the project called for a special review of parking instead of the PUD review. The error was caught just prior to last month’s P&Z meeting. “We made a mistake,” he told council members. “It didn’t require a special review.”But Edwards said it wasn’t fair to impose a last-minute change on the opponents. “I had focused my attention entirely on the special review standards,” he said.Bendon went on to explain that a PUD review is much broader than the special-review process, which would solely focus on parking issues. The council approved a PUD for the Boomerang redevelopment back in 2006, when Stunda and his partners were seeking and won approval for a new lodge project.Though some council members appeared to recognize that due process was not followed during the December P&Z meeting, they still spent a fair amount of time trying to convince Edwards that sending the issue back to the commission was unnecessary since the council will ultimately decide the fate of the project.Councilman Dwayne Romero said while there seemed to be “a lack of public notice” regarding the change in the review procedure, he added that opponents would only achieve a time delay and the aggravation of all involved parties.After suggesting earlier in the debate that the appeal was a waste of everyone’s time, Mayor Mick Ireland began to steer council members toward a compromise that would allow the parking issue to go back to P&Z. “I don’t see how it would hurt to go back to P&Z and have an argument based solely on PUD standards,” he said.At that point, Stunda shouted from audience, “What’s right with it? It’s double jeopardy!” He was then admonished by Ireland not to comment unless first acknowledged.Stunda’s group has already scaled down the project from 54 to 46 units and a height of four stories to three. Square-footage has been reduced from 54,000 to 41,500. Parking plans call for 33 underground spaces and 13 on the street, concepts already approved under the PUD for the lodge redevelopment.The group was driven to transform the project from a lodge redevelopment to an employee-housing facility because the downturn in the economy limited the ability to secure financing. In the meantime, the city created a tax-credit program for affordable housing.But opponents, led by Goldenberg, have argued the project does not have enough parking for a neighborhood that is already beset with parking problems. They also have voiced concerns that the project is too massive for the low-density neighborhood.Councilman Steve Skadron provided the lone vote to oppose returning the parking issue to P&Z.email@example.com
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.