Developers seek City Hall documents
ASPEN Lawyers and developers battling City Hall over land use want to see their names in print.Garfield & Hecht PC, which is engaged in at least two lawsuits against City Hall, recently filed an open records request seeking every document and e-mail that contains the names of six developers and lawyers, as well as development applications filed over the past two years and ordinances relating to preserving historic buildings.The firms request asks for all documents containing the names of Andrew Hecht, his son Nikos Hecht, Ron Garfield and Joshua Saslove, all of whom are principals in JS Cooper Street LLC, which owns the Cooper Street Pier building. The firm also wants documents naming Stephen Marcus and John Provine, who are investors in 633 Spring II LLC, which controls the Wienerstube building, located at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue.The request also seeks documentation and e-mails related to several land-use applications filed with City Hall in the past two years, including the redevelopment reviews of the Hotel Jerome, Stage 3, Cooper Street Pier, Wienerstube and a host of other buildings.They also want e-mails and documentation related to ordinances 30, 48 and 51, which all deal with regulations limiting what owners can do with properties that are least 30 years old.The request has created somewhat of a logistical nightmare for city staffers, who are scratching their heads in determining how to narrow down the search.We are currently working with them in how we can comply, said City Attorney John Worcester. We have to agree on what we are searching for.The search will likely result in hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of documents.I dont know what they are looking for, and I think neither do they, Worcester said. Its a fishing expedition.Attorneys at Garfield & Hecht couldnt be reached for comment.The search will extend to at least 17 computers, which include the private and public machines of City Council members and city employees.City Halls information technology department backs up information on its server for the past 60 days. Beyond that, the information is stored on disks, Worcester said.Whatever is in the scope of the search, which is expected to be decided in the next few days, will cost the law firm. Documents cost 25 cents a page and the firm will be charged city staff time to retrieve the information, Worcester said.
Garfield & Hecht currently are suing the city over the recent denials by the City Council to redevelop the Cooper Street Pier and Wienerstube buildings, arguing elected officials abused their discretion when they denied their plans to subdivide the properties.However, the request does not directly relate to the lawsuits, Worcester said. Thats because the status of those cases are effectively stayed as the two sides wait for the court to decide on what should be considered regarding the scope of public record in both land-use reviews. At issue is whether the city is required to include materials presented to just the City Council or from all governing bodies that reviewed the applications.We argue that its only what was in front of council, Worcester said, adding Garfield & Hecht want finer details, like minutes from meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which approved both projects.The law firm also has filed a motion in Pitkin County District Court asking that the two lawsuits be consolidated and put in front of one judge, James Boyd. Boyd is currently handling the Cooper Street Pier suit and Judge Daniel Petre is handling the one related to the Wienerstube denial.The city of Aspen earlier this month filed a motion opposing the consolidation, arguing that each case is separate and rely upon different records in two different proceedings.Garfield & Hecht argued that because the two lawsuits argue the same points, they should be considered together.While developers said both projects met city regulations, the council said they didnt meet the Aspen Area Community Plan, a driving force behind the land-use code that refers to development fitting in with a neighborhood.But developers argue that because the applications were requests for subdivision approval, the City Council was limited on its review of the project and couldnt legally deny them on their merits related to land use.The council in March voted 3-0 to deny a subdivision approval for the 18,000-square-foot Wienerstube property. Council members said their primary reason for the denial was that the three-story building was out of character with the area and was too tall.The Wienerstubes land-use plan called for redeveloping the property into a 47,000-square-foot complex that would house the Wienerstube restaurant for at least 10 years, Ajax Bike and Sport, and four or five smaller affordable commercial spaces that would have faced the alley. The 12 affordable housing units and six free-market condos would have been on the upper levels along with additional commercial and office space. The council voted 3-1 in November to deny the Cooper Street Pier subdivision request. The redevelopment proposal had secured approval to demolish the existing three-story building and develop a four-story commercial and residential building, comprising 3,827 square-feet of net leasable space divided between the basement, first and second floors. A 2,008-square-foot free-market condo would have taken up the third and fourth firstname.lastname@example.org