City has problem with Testosterone
When Robert Cypher readied his men’s store to open on the 300 block of East Hyman Avenue earlier this summer, he did most of the work himself.
He signed a short-term lease in May with landlord Mark Hunt, who plans to convert the building into a boutique hotel in the future, and he had a vision for the look and feel of the interior and exterior of his shop, Testosterone.
He put new siding — about an eighth of an inch thick — on the age-worn facade of the store, giving it a sturdy, rustic look to fit the shop’s motif. He also put in new windows and made improvements to the interior.
Cypher felt that the 300 block of East Hyman, with Andrew Sandler opening the Bootsy Bellows nightclub next door, would get a boost from the two businesses.
“We were thinking we were going to come in here and rejuvenate this street, which is part of the core,” Cypher said. “But the city doesn’t treat it that way.”
Unbeknownst to Cypher, he wasn’t following city regulations when he did the work.
“I was told that I didn’t need to pull any permits,” he recalled, declining to say who offered him that advice.
In a normal Aspen development climate, Cypher could have gone to City Hall and requested an application for the improvements he was making. But in March, the City Council passed emergency legislation that froze the filing of land-use applications in various zone districts, including the downtown core, where Testosterone is located. That meant big jobs or touch-ups on property subject to the moratorium would be off the table until the moratorium expires at the end of February.
City officials soon took notice of the work Cypher had done. On June 21, the city cited Cypher for multiple infractions. Most were reparable, but the siding Cypher put up would need to be removed, and the underlying surface would need to be fixed, Stephen Kanipe, the city’s chief building official, said Wednesday.
“He wants to improve the appearance of his business, and that’s certainly what a business owner is obligated to do,” Kanipe said. “I can say I appreciate his dilemma.”
Even so, the city sent an Aug. 15-dated letter to Cypher saying that a permit application would need to be submitted with the city by Aug. 26 to allow him to remove the siding and repair the underlying surface.
The work would need to be completed by Friday, or Cypher could see fines of as much as $2,650 a day, the letter said.
Cypher didn’t submit an application and said he might close the store instead of getting into compliance.
“I want to make this place look better, not throw a bunch of bubble gum or lipstick on it,” he said. “It’s going to cost me thousands of dollars to repair it, and I can’t just leave it (in its previous state).”
Even though the permit deadline has passed, Kanipe said the city is willing to work with Cypher.
“If he came in tomorrow and had a permit application to remove the siding and to repair the underlying surface, we could issue it then,” Kanipe said. “We’re really looking for a solution. We don’t want to turn this into a problem. What we want is compliance, and I don’t want to move into an enforcement action.”
The city has shown some flexibility with at least one other business this year that made improvements without a building permit.
On June 22, the city hit the owners of the Creperie du Village restaurant with a stop-work order demanding that they remove two awnings that were put in the below-grade patio without a permit. The owners appealed to the City Council in July and said they didn’t know they needed a permit. But it was a moot point because of the moratorium. The council allowed the awnings, which the owners said provided shade to its patrons, to stay through Oct. 15. The council’s exemption was made despite the Community Development Department’s suggestion that they deny the request.
Cypher, however, said he doesn’t want to make a plea to the City Council.
“To be honest, I’d rather hug it out and get back to work,” he said. “I’m a worker, and I did all of this myself.”
He also said that his space looks much better than it did before he made the improvements, and he has no desire to retreat to the old look.
“This is my business,” he said. “My name is on it.”
Previously Cypher ran Testosterone on Durant Avenue but said he was forced to relocate because his rent was raised by nearly 40 percent.
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