Cooper housing hearing pushed to August |

Cooper housing hearing pushed to August

A second chance for developers of a proposed worker housing project to win approval from the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission has been postponed to Aug. 25.

Recent litigation launched by two groups opposed to the development was the main reason for seeking a continuance of Wednesday’s scheduled hearing, one of the project planners told the board. During a virtual meeting, the seven-member volunteer board unanimously agreed to conduct the hearing in 11 weeks.

“We think it’s really in the best interest of the public process to continue this hearing while the lawsuits proceed through the court system,” said Sara Adams of Aspen firm BendomAdams.

The five-unit project proposed for 1020 E. Cooper Ave. has been criticized by its neighbors as too dense, too large for the lot size and out of line with HPC guidelines, among other drawbacks.

The HPC is the decision-making authority on the project because a historically designated structure, a miner’s cabin, sits on the property eyed for development. The HPC denied the proposal 3-1 at a Feb. 17 hearing, prompting developers Jim DeFrancia and Jean Coulter to bring an appeal to City Council. Council members, in a 3-2 decision April 19, remanded the matter to HPC.

Council members said some HPC members, rather than committing to the criteria to approve or deny the proposal, abused their discretion and showed their biases during the decision-making process.

With the project back in play, the nonprofit Save Aspen and the Cooper Avenue Victorian Condominium Association Inc. on May 14 filed separate lawsuits over City Council’s decision to remand the application to HPC.

The two lawsuits are seeking either the court’s reversal of the council’s decision, formally known as a resolution, or declaration making it void and unenforceable.

In Save Aspen’s complaint, Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin, however, rejected its motion for a temporary restraining orders to block Wednesday’s hearing, a matter that became moot in light of the developers’ request for an extension.

“Colorado appears not to have addressed whether courts may review a superior board’s decision remanding a matter to an inferior officer or body within the same agency,” said Seldin’s written ruling in response to Save Aspen’s motion.

Save Aspen moved the court for a restraining order Friday; the condo association’s motion was made May 28. Judge Denise Lynch denied the condo association’s motion June 1.

Seldin’s ruling noted courts in other states have found cases similar to the two lawsuits before Seldin to be “unripe” for judicial review.

In the instance of 1020 E. Cooper Ave., the developers’ application is pending before the city, leading to Seldin’s “logical conclusion” that the court can’t step in midstream. Both lawsuits were filed under Colorado’s Rule 106, which allows citizens to appeal to the courts a governmental body’s decision on land use and development applications.

In that same order, delivered June 5, Seldin told Save Aspen to “show cause within 21 days of today’s date as to why this matter should not be dismissed.”

Editor’s note: The original version of this article reported that Judge Chris Seldin was presiding over both cases. The article has been changed to reflect that Judge Denise Lynch is overseeing Cooper Avenue Victorian Condominium Association’s complaint against the city.

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