City council approves townhome project on South Aspen Street

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Ten years in the making, the Aspen City Council on Monday approved a townhome-development project on South Aspen Street near Aspen Mountain’s Lift 1A. After nearly two hours of debate, the council approved the project — with one key alteration: that one of the three buildings be downsized from a multi-family unit to a single-family unit so that the adjacent property on Juan Street can have 15 feet of additional buffer room.

Over the years, myriad plans have been created for the three parcels of land near Deane Court and Gilbert streets. In 2007, the area was included in the controversial Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal, which went through numerous public reviews before it eventually was scuttled. Vested development rights attached to the property were granted to ASV Aspen Street Owners LLC in 2003 and were set to expire in March 2015.

The council voted 3-1 on the project, with council member Ann Mullins voting against it. Council member Art Daily was absent due to complications from a knee replacement.

The council and city staff agreed that one way or another, a project was going to move forward on what is considered by some as one of the most important sites in Aspen. Mayor Steve Skadron said it was difficult to get behind the project, saying, “I’m being forced to approve it because it’s the least worst project (available).”

Mullins said the council shouldn’t be approving a project it doesn’t like. Council member Dwayne Romero offered the idea of downsizing Building 3, which would help maintain the quality of living for residences at the Juan Street affordable-housing complex, a major point of contention.

President of the Juan Street homeowners association and former council member Derek Johnson spoke during the public-hearing portion of the meeting. He referenced Community Development Director Chris Bendon, who said that people who have been following South Aspen Street could probably give it a scorecard of wins and losses over the years. For the project’s impact on Juan Street, Johnson gave a D-plus.

“The livability aspect has been given a lot of weight (for the South Aspen Street development),” Johnson said. “I don’t believe that same consideration has been given to the existing Juan Street homeowners.”

The proposal brought before the council provided 16 feet between Building 3 at South Aspen Street and the Juan Street complex. The plan that was approved will essentially double that space. The original proposal included 31 on-site residential multi-family units (14 free market and 17 affordable housing), which would house 34.25 employees. Additionally, the applicant proposed to provide affordable housing for 11.75 employees in the form of physical units east of the “S” curves or affordable-housing credits. Those numbers will change slightly with the inclusion of a smaller Building 3.

David Parker, representing the developer who has been after the project for nearly a decade, said, “This is a better plan (than what’s been proposed in the past). Is it the best possible plan? I don’t know, but it’s a damn good one.”