For Mark Hunt proposals, viewplanes once again dominate discussions
Viewplanes dominated Aspen City Council discussions Monday night about two Mark Hunt-owned properties: the Bidwell Building at 434 E. Cooper Ave., and the 6,000-square-foot property at 305 S. Mill St.
Hunt is proposing to demolish the Bidwell Building, which houses Kemo Sabe, Ryno’s Pub and Pizzeria restaurant and a few other local businesses, to construct a new space on the property as well as extensively remodel the Mill Street lot, where Grey Lady, Jimmy’s Bodega and the Popcorn Wagon are located.
On Oct. 1, the Historic Preservation Commission approved major development, conceptual commercial-design review and viewplane review of both buildings.
However, a few commission members were absent from the Oct. 1 decision, as the votes were 3-2 and 3-1, respectively.
Aspen City Council expressed skepticism at Monday’s meeting over the absent commission members for such important building decisions.
“These are major, major projects,” City Councilwoman Ann Mullins said.
City Councilman Art Daily agreed with Mullins.
“I, too, was uncomfortable with the close vote,” Daily said. “That’s a pretty tight vote for a building of this significance.”
Daily said he thinks the corner needs to be revisited more carefully.
Historic Preservation officer Amy Simon said there always will be times of year where there are conflicts, and that six or seven commissioners are present for most meetings.
“It’s not as bad as it might seem,” Simon said.
Viewplanes also were argued, though the project’s minor Wheeler Opera House viewplane violation of a few feet didn’t seem to concern some members of the council.
While it may just be a few feet, Wheeler board member Richard Cohen said, “I hate to see little bit go, because next time it’s going to be a little bit more.”
The City Council also motioned to uphold the Historic Preservation Commission’s Sept. 9 decision to approve conceptual major development, conceptual commercial-design review, demolition and viewplane exemption of the salmon colored building next to Casa Tua at 447 E. Cooper St.
Hunt is under contract to buy the building from Basalt-based Meyer Business Building LLC.
Three retail tenants — a glass gallery, a jewelry store and a fur store — currently occupy the building’s first floor, while the second floor houses three or four free-market residential units. The two-story building sits on a 9,026-square-foot lot and stands at 22 feet.
The applicant’s proposed structure is 28 feet, which complies with the building’s zone-district requirements, and is being proposed for commercial use, according to a memo from City Senior Planner Sara Adams.
Similar to many of the properties discussed during Monday’s meeting, talk of viewplanes dominated the conversation.
The structure at 447 E. Cooper St. has two viewplane violations: one that blocks the Wheeler Opera House and another at Wagner Park that faces Independence Pass.
The Wheeler viewplane intersects the front of the building between 20 and 21 feet. The Wagner viewplane intersects the southwest rear of the building at nearly 22 feet, and reaches nearly 32 feet at the building’s southeast rear.
The Historic Preservation Commission chose to exempt the project from viewplane review because they found that neighboring buildings, which lack potential future redevelopment, already block the viewplane. They also exempted viewplane review because they determined that the proposed development has a minimal impact on the viewplane.
“There’s no dancing around it. The section on viewplane is awfully written. It doesn’t even say what you want it to say,” Hunt’s land-use planner Mitch Haas said.
Councilman Adam Frisch said that in his four years in his position, he’s learned that “every single view is important in town.”
“I feel like we’re trying to fix a musket,” Frisch said.
The application is subject to final major development review by the Historic Preservation Commission.
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