Group presses city on Aspen Art Museum proposal
September 15, 2010
ASPEN – A group of citizens has gathered more than 1,000 signatures in a petition to compel Aspen’s City Council to back out of a lawsuit settlement that includes moving the Aspen Art Museum downtown.
The deadline for backing out is Wednesday, but the City Council said Monday night that it would not reconsider because it didn’t want to renege on a deal.
Mayor Mick Ireland said he couldn’t back off of the proposal in good conscience because it would violate the city’s relationship with the owner of the property and open the city to further litigation.
But a handful of the people who have organized under the platform of “saving Aspen’s character” attended the meeting. They said the city had violated the public trust because the deal was struck without any input from the community.
“There was no public process whatsoever,” said Richie Cohen, a member of the group, on Tuesday.
They presented 800 signatures to the City Council on Monday (they have since gathered 200 more, members said) and asked that the building application go through the land-use process that requires approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The body normally ensures that proposals adhere to city zoning rules.
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Commission members discussed the proposal before the City Council made its decision, but never weighed in on it.
Property owners sued the city last year for denying the original application to redevelop the building on the new museum site, saying the council acted outside its jurisdiction because the building fit the city land-use code.
The newest development is the settlement between the City Council and the property owner.
The two developments that will come from the approval are the 30,000-square-foot new museum on the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue, and a 15,000-square-foot redevelopment of the current space on which the Wienerstube restaurant sits; 11,250 square feet is dedicated to commercial leasing.
Of the museum, 10,000 square feet would be underground, and 12,000 square feet would be dedicated to galleries – more space than the museum’s current spot offers. Plans call for a glass building encased in a screen-like transparent wooden facade.
The decision was made on Aug. 2, and the city had 45 days to rethink it.