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Historic cabins find new home

Janet Urquhart

Three historic East End cabins appear destined for a new home at Aspen’s Cozy Point Ranch in a compromise that will settle a dispute between the city and a property owner.

Relocating the cabins to city property, where they will serve as affordable housing, won informal endorsement from the City Council Monday.

Property owner Charles Tower has agreed to pick up the cost of moving the buildings, but who will pay other associated costs remains a matter of negotiation.

Adding residences to the 168-acre ranch, located at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, will tax the ranch’s well and septic system, said city planner Fred Jarman.

There will be infrastructure costs to provide the cabins with utilities, as well as the expense of building a foundation to set them on, he said.

“There may be substantial costs,” Jarman said.

However, the city may need to address deficiencies with the well and septic system at Cozy Point anyway and could maximize its investment by servicing the cabins, too, said Rebecca Shickling, assistant parks director for the city.

Relocation of the cabins will likely be a joint development application involving Tower and the Parks Department, Jarman said. The Parks Department oversees Cozy Point, an equestrian facility.

The city has leased operation of Cozy Point to Monroe Summers, who suggested the council consider the cabins as replacement housing for a “decrepit” bunkhouse at the ranch.

Jarman had suggested two of the cabins could house ranch employees and the third could serve as housing for a city worker.

Councilman Tom McCabe questioned the fate of the workers who currently rent the cabins from Tower.

They would receive no priority for other housing through the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority unless their displacement is the result of a government action, according to Cindy Christensen, housing office manager.

There was some debate among the council members as to whether the relocation of the buildings to city property constitutes government action.

Though Councilman Terry Paulson expressed qualms with relocation of the cabins, only Councilman Jim Markalunas expressed outright opposition to the plan.

“I have a problem with historical structures being moved to another site,” he said. “I guess it sort of bastardizes historical preservation.”

“It’s not like they’re being moved to Baltimore,” countered Councilman Tony Hershey. Both he and Mayor Rachel Richards said Cozy Point is an appropriate spot for the cabins.

Because the ranch is located in unincorporated Pitkin County, the move will require approval from the county commissioners.

The kit-built cabins, constructed between 1948 and 1952, are listed on the city’s historic inventory. Tower, who wants to redevelop his property at Hyman Avenue and Cleveland Street, asked the Historic Preservation Commission to take the structures off the list. The HPC denied the request.

Tower claims he was never notified when the city designated the cabins as historic in 1992, and he appealed the HPC’s ruling to the council, contending he was denied due process when the buildings were listed in the first place. He also contends the cabins don’t qualify as historic and noted they were less than 50 years old when the city added them to its historic inventory.

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