Crunch time looms for Aspen Power Plant proposal
Members of the Aspen Power Plant project are scheduled to meet with their potential neighbors on May 9, after which time City Council will publicly begin to finalize a lease agreement for the civic property.
The meeting will come after Power Plant officials, including their lawyer, met privately with City Council on Monday, according to City Attorney Jim True. No representatives from the Oklahoma Flats neighborhood attended.
The discussion, which is called an executive session in government parlance, was held behind closed doors because it involved lease negotiations, True said. However, City Council will be required to bless the lease in public, he said.
Approved by City Council in March 2015, the Aspen Power Plant proposal prevailed over submissions from a number of Aspen-area nonprofits.
The Power Plant would contain the for-profit businesses Aspen Brewing Co. and Aspen 82 television station as well as a nonprofit “generator”-style office space for entrepreneurs along with event space.
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About 15 Oklahoma Flats residents are against the alcohol-service component because they contend it would taint their quality of life. Attorney Matt Ferguson and colleague Michelle Schindler are providing counsel to what he called “a confederacy of like-minded people” in opposition to Aspen Brewing having a presence at 590 N. Mill St., the 7,200-square-foot riverside building that currently houses the temporary Pitkin County Library while its permanent space is remodeled and expanded.
Because the neighbors and Ferguson haven’t seen the lease, he said they could be at a disadvantage come the May meeting.
“We don’t have a lease so we don’t even know what we’ll be discussing,” he said.
Lawyer Chris Bryan, who represents the Power Plant, said the city “has asked us to treat the negotiations just as that, negotiations. And the city has a right to negotiate the lease of city-owned property in a confidential manner.”
Following the executive session at City Council’s regular meeting Monday, the topic of the Power Plant emerged again.
Resident Jim Ward, who has spoken against the brewery, asked if there would be more meetings about the proposal, to which True responded, “At some point there will be a public meeting in order to adopt any proposed lease to the Power Plant.”
Phyliss Bronson, whose son is a member of the Power Plant team, called the project “innovative” and noted a series of public meetings were held leading up to last year’s approval.
“It was duly vetted here, and there were many, many comments and public statements supporting it,” she said, adding she was disappointed that the rejected applicants “didn’t congratulate” the Power Plant folks for winning the approval.
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The Aspen Filmfest program, which opens Tuesday night with the Jessica Chastain-led drama “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” is a tribute to the founder, Ellen Kohner Hunt. The festival will also recognize the memory of Hunt with “Ellenfest” on Thursday.