City denies Wheeler/Stallard subdivision
In a decision Tuesday that “astounded” the Aspen Historical Society’s executive director, the City Council rejected a proposal that would have allowed the group to raise money and preserve a 9,000-square-foot chunk of its museum grounds.The plan centered on the use of transferable development rights. The historical society’s board of directors, the city planning and zoning commission and city planning staff had enthusiastically backed subdividing the 9,000-square-foot parcel in the front corner of the Wheeler/Stallard House Museum grounds. That would have created 16 transferable development rights that could be sold to developers elsewhere in town for 250-square-foot expansions. Having reached their regular maximum zoning density, developers who still want to expand their homes typically buy TDRs.The cash from those sales would have greatly aided the financial struggling historical society.But that was not enough to sway council members Torre, Rachel Richards and Mayor Helen Klanderud. Councilman Jack Johnson was the only member to support the plan; Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss abstained because of his connection to the society.The general feeling among those voting against the plan was that Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, who donated the acreage for the museum space, would not have wanted the land subdivided.Richards said she was concerned about the spread of TDRs and allowing the development impacts from the historical society’s TDR sales to be spread all over town.Because of the covenants in the deal between the Paepcke estate and the historical society, any development not related to the museum is prohibited.”We’re being asked to create additional value where there is none,” Richards said.Klanderud agreed, saying that the Paepckes would not have wanted to develop Aspen further.”I can’t go there,” she said.Georgia Hanson, the society’s executive director, was taken aback.”I’m astounded. When we started this process … we were complying with the rules,” she said.Hanson said P&Z called the plan “brilliant,” and one that could forever sterilize the property from development.”We could build anything we wanted, if we got the building permits, if it’s related to the museum,” she said.Klanderud said that the museum grounds, which greatly benefited from the Paepckes’ generosity, would receive another gift from the city if the TDRs were approved.Hanson said it was the historical society board’s feeling going into the meeting that the plan was a win-win situation for the group and the city.”I was not prepared for this [opposition],” she told council.Torre conceded that when the proposal first arose it was generally considered to be a good idea. But, he said, “Mrs. Paepcke wouldn’t want other sites in Aspen to absorb the development impacts.”Klanderud acknowledged the group’s financial straits, but said that selling TDRs isn’t the only way to improve its bottom line.After the meeting, Hanson said she felt “duped by the process.”Hanson said the historical society was not looking for a windfall from the TDR sales.”We were led to believe that this was a no-brainer,” she said. “I’m disappointed.”The group’s next step isn’t certain, she said, and the board will be looking at “other opportunities to see what can be done with that property.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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