Emma store could fall Wednesday | AspenTimes.com

Emma store could fall Wednesday

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

EMMA ” The historic red brick Emma store along Highway 82 could have just one more day to live.

On Monday, building owner Owen Minney said he has given Pitkin County an extra 24 hours to negotiate before he knocks down the structures that once were a community store. The site is next to Highway 82, downvalley from Basalt.

“They built the road too close and they took the entitlements away,” Minney said of county officials.

Minney said he has “exhausted funds and energy” in a handful of efforts to preserve the building over the years. And although he said he wants to preserve the buildings on the 12-acre site, Minney said the county has given him no choice.

Minney recently hung a banner across the buildings offering to sell the bricks of the now-crumbling historic structures ” at night he shines a spotlight on the building and sign ” and recently was granted a demolition permit.

“We postponed the demolition for tomorrow [Tuesday] until the following day,” Minney said, noting that he’s giving the county board a chance to “accept responsibility” and buy the buildings and part of the property.

“I’m trying to work with them,” Minney said.

While Minney said responsibility for razing the structures rests with the county board, at least one county commissioner said Minney is off base.

“He had a long discussion with us about options and plans,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley. “But the discussion never went any further than that.”

Owsley said commissioners resisted for the same reason they opposed the proposed Grace Church development in Emma (the board later agreed to the development under threat of a federal lawsuit) ” the area is zoned as residential and is not fit for some of the commercial developments Minney has proposed.

Owsley said it was “unlikely” that commissioners would make an offer for Minney’s buildings.

“We don’t have money set aside for purchase of historic structures,” he said.

“I don’t think [Minney] understands the possibilities,” Owsley said, which include a “good planning” effort for the land. And Minney has not come back to the board with any plan or an application, Owsley said.

“He would like to either have a yes or no. Those processes take a long time,” Owsley said. If Minney bulldozes the buildings in coming days, Owsley said that marks an end to any potential negotiations.

“The county isn’t interested in an extra day,” Owsley said. “We’re in interested in the planning process; we’re not interested in the ransom or the hostage process.”

And there is no way the county board can respond to a threat, Owsley said.

“My guess would be that the best we could do is invite Owen to more conversation,” Owsley said, something that could begin at a commissioner’s work session scheduled for Tuesday.

“Those are historic buildings that I think a lot of people are concerned about,” Owsley said. “It’d be a shame to lose them.”