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Homes proposed at Smuggler Mine

The Smuggler Mine sports a light dusting of snow Tuesday afternoon. Development of two homes at the historic site has been proposed. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)
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PITKIN COUNTY Smuggler Mine representatives want to preserve the historic site, and are hoping Pitkin County commissioners will reward them with permission to build two free-market homes.Representatives of the mine hope to take advantage of incentives under the new land-use code and had a chance to float their idea for two 15,000-square-foot homes to commissioners at a Tuesday work session.”I think it was great news,” said Chris Preusch, president of New Smuggler.Preusch wants to divide the 29-acre site into two 10-acre parcels for homes and designate the working mine area – 9.7 acres – as a historic property. The mine is located at the base of Smuggler Mountain, on the edge of Aspen, but just outside city limits.Mine owners want to build a parking area, a reception building with an office, library and “Watchman’s Quarters” (which is required by federal regulations for any working mine), and do extensive landscaping on the historic section.Smuggler Mountain Road, popular with hikers, bikers and dog-walkers, crosses the upper portion of the property on a right of way, and mine officials are offering that territory in a conservation easement.”We were slightly under,” Preusch said of the two 10-acre parcels, which would require an exemption because of the steep slope. And the project would require additional transferable development rights to reach the zoning limit of 15,000 square feet. The meeting was a chance to gauge commissioners’ reaction.”I got a feeling they generally support it,” said Stan Clauson, a planner representing the mine owners.And though commissioners expressed some reluctance to grant transferable development rights that add up to millions of dollars in value for the developer, and are concerned about the size of the homes and exempting the project from affordable housing, they were generally in favor of preserving the historic mine.Rachel Richards chimed in with concerns about the large homes which would be readily visible because of the steep slope, and said the transferable rights amounted to a $2.4 million grant. She asked for input from the city of Aspen on the issue.Commissioner Patti Clapper said she is concerned about owning a Superfund site the mine is perched above a huge tailings pile.Commissioner Jack Hatfield chimed in his concerns about home size, but Commissioner Michael Owsley said, “I think a 15,000-square-foot house up there is in good company,” adding he is impressed by the project.”I know there’s no commitment, but I derive some encouragement,” Clauson said.Commissioners were not asked to vote on the issue and said the meeting was a result of what they called “the Owen Minney clause” under new planning and building codes.Minney owns the historic Emma store and ranch house and is asking commissioners for special concessions, and the new codes allow owners like Minney to meet with commissioners and have a chance to find out what renovations are possible and what county incentives are available.While the mine is on the National Register of Historic Places, Preusch said, “We would of course like to be one of the first to be on the county register.””We think this will make it a much better neighbor,” Preusch said of the busy hiking trail nearby.Smuggler Mine owners said they plan to file a formal proposal for the project in coming weeks.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.


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