Hunt eyes another tear-down project in downtown Aspen
The Aspen Times
Another land-use application filed before the May charter amendment election includes a proposal to tear down the building next to the Casa Tua structure in downtown Aspen.
The Historic Preservation Commission is set to review developer Mark Hunt’s application at a meeting scheduled Aug. 12 at City Hall. Hunt has both the Casa Tua building and the building next to it on Cooper Avenue under contract. Guido’s Swiss Inn LLC currently owns the Casa Tua building; Meyer Business Building LLC owns the adjacent salmon-colored structure.
Last week, Hunt said there are no plans to redevelop the Casa Tua building, once the longtime home of Guido’s Swiss Inn.
“We will keep it as it is with Casa Tua,” he said.
A city document also says, “The Casa Tua building will remain unchanged, except for minor interior revisions to the circulation core that connects” to the adjacent building.
Hunt’s application to tear down the Casa Tua building’s neighboring structure, located at 447 E. Cooper Ave., calls for 22,000 square feet of commercial space on two floors. The application also says Hunt will pay the city $549,000 in lieu of the off-street parking requirement of 18.3 spaces.
As the current application stands, the proposed new building would require variances because it would intersect the view planes of both the Wheeler Opera House and Wagner Park. The Preservation Commission has authority to grant those variances, said Sara Adams of the city’s Community Development Department.
“The view plane impacts associated with the proposed redevelopment will be marginal to minimal, to the extent that any impacts at all will result,” according to Community Development records.
The City Council, however, could call up the application and decide whether it should be granted the view-plane variances, similar to a July 27 meeting when it decided to call up the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval of the proposed redevelopment at 411 E. Hyman Ave. That proposal also would encroach on the Wheeler view plane, and the City Council will entertain the proposed variances at an August meeting.
However, if any of those land-use applications had been submitted after the May 5 election in which voters passed the Home Rule Charter amendment known as Referendum 1, they would require voter approval.
The referendum amended the city’s Home Rule Charter so that the City Council could not approve land-use applications that sought variances on height, mass, parking, affordable housing and view planes. Instead, applications seeking such waivers would require a public vote.
City Attorney Jim True has said that variance-seeking land-use applications filed before the May election are grandfathered in and aren’t bound to Referendum 1. Many residents, however, have contended that the City Council should honor the spirit of Referendum 1 by not granting variances to land-use applications that were introduced before the election.
That includes Aspen activists Maurice Emmer and Steve Goldenberg, who sought the legal opinion of attorney Thomas Smith about the matter. In a seven-page offering, Smith concluded that “the charter amendment (Referendum 1) applies to any land-use approvals which include variances that are granted after the effective date of the charter amendment, including those applications pending at the time. The City Council must refer all such applications to the electorate for authorization for variances, and without such approval the variances are of no effect.”
The land-use application for Hunt’s Base2 lodging proposal on Main Street was filed before the election. On June 2, the City Council approved the project, granting it multiple variances; under Referendum 1, the proposal would have been required to go to a municipal election.
That led to a petition drive, engineered by residents Ward Hauenstein and Marcia Goshorn, to bring the lodge to a public vote. The two submitted 1,312 signatures, more than double the required 617 names.
As of 1:15 p.m. Friday, City Clerk Linda Manning said she had verified 299 signatures. If Manning verifies the necessary number of signatures, the City Council has the option of either repealing the Base2 approval or referring it to a public vote.
While new restaurants enter the Aspen scene, there are several spaces that will remain empty this winter. Meanwhile, the retail market remains extremely hot.