City prevails in zoning dispute
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A district court judge has upheld the Aspen City Council’s position in a zoning dispute that arose last year when a property owner relied on what turned out to be a faulty city zoning map.
The council correctly affirmed the parcel’s zoning, according to Judge T. Peter Craven, though that zoning was not correctly reflected on the map upon which the property’s owner relied.
Dale Hower purchased a Riverside Drive parcel in 1998, intending to build a duplex there. The city’s zoning map indicated the parcel was zoned R-6, and city officials, consulting the map, assured her that the R-6 zoning was in place on the property, allowing the duplex development.
When a neighbor questioned the zoning and asserted the parcel was zoned R-15, which does not permit a duplex, city officials ultimately concluded a mapping snafu had occurred.
The matter went to a hearing before the council last July. Members voted 3-2 to uphold the R-15 zoning on the parcel, concluding the parcel had never been formerly rezoned through adoption of an ordinance and that the R-6 zoning indicated on the map was a mistake.
“The City Council did not misconstrue the applicable law,” Craven ruled. “The City Council concluded in effect that the zoning map itself did not change the zoning.”
Apparently, a piece of cellophane tape, placed on the zoning map in the 1970s, was to blame for the confusion nearly three decades later, according to City Attorney John Worcester.
The tape was imprinted with a dashed line and apparently placed on the 1975 map as an aid by the city’s Community Development staff. It was misinterpreted as an official boundary line when the map was redone in 1983, splitting Hower’s property into two zones. Computerized mapping in the mid-1990s then placed the entire parcel in the wrong zone, city officials concluded.
Although Craven has upheld the council’s ruling in the matter, a trial is expected to address Hower’s damage claims and whether the city is responsible for covering her costs.
In her appeal to the council last year, she claimed the devaluation of her property as a result of the zoning determination, combined with the legal and architectural fees she incurred, would exceed $1 million.
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