It’s round 2 for East Cooper housing proposal and HPC |

It’s round 2 for East Cooper housing proposal and HPC

Aspen’s Historical Preservation Commission scheduled to vote this week on worker-housing project

The current miner’s cabin at 1020 E Cooper Ave. in Aspen. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

A worker-housing project pitched for East Cooper Avenue is scheduled to go before the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday for a second vote after the board originally denied the proposal in February.

The land-use review for the development of five deed-restricted housing units at 1020 E. Cooper Ave. returns to the HPC after the Aspen City Council on April 19 determined commissioners Roger Moyer and Scott Kendrick rejected the plan based on personal biases toward worker housing rather than deciding on the project’s merits. That was enough for three of the council’s five members — who entered the issue after developers Jim DeFrancia and Jean Coulter appealed the denial — to remand the project to the HPC for another review of the land-use application.

The site includes a historic miner’s cabin, which is why the HPC has the final say on the project. The HPC actually was scheduled to rehear the proposal June 9, but it was postponed until this week after the developers sought a continuance of the matter due to recent litigation.

In separate lawsuits filed in May, the groups Cooper Avenue Victorian Condominium Association Inc. and the Save Aspen asked the court to either reverse the council’s decision to remand the proposal to the HPC, or declare it as void and unenforceable. The complaints both were filed against the city and the developers under Colorado’s Rule 106, which allows residents to appeal a governmental body’s decision on land use and development applications to the courts. The condo association’s complaint also wants the court to vacate the council’s decision and reinstate the HPC’s denial.

While the Save Aspen complaint was dismissed June 22, the condo association’s suit remains pending. And it is for that reason this week’s hearing should be postponed, argued condo association attorney Chris Bryan in an Aug. 17-dated letter to Jim True and Josh Marks, the city’s respective in-house and outsourced counsel. Until the litigation is finished, the land use review belongs on hold, he argued.

“If this HPC hearing is not stayed or otherwise continued, then all parties involved will be caught in a procedural quagmire as the status and outcome of that litigation will affect whether the HPC can even hear the Application on remand,” Bryan’s letter said. “It is only fair to City staff and HPC members, as well as the Applicant’s paid professionals and the opposing neighbors, to minimize additional costs and fees while the litigation is pending.”

Attorneys for the city, however, have argued the opposite: Until the land use review is complete and the plaintiffs have exhausted all remedies in City Hall to thwart the project, the lawsuit is unripe for judicial review. They also are seeking the lawsuit’s dismissal.

If the hearing goes as scheduled, Bryan said Monday he will be there. Project foes remain opposed to the project on contentions that the additions to the property will be nearly three times the size of the existing cabin, and the rear building will shadow the cabin, making it incompatible with HPC codes. They also have said it is the proposal’s merits — not the affordable-housing project’s would-be occupants — that are fueling their opposition.

“So, we can say yes to a needed affordable housing project at 1020 E. Cooper, but it must be smaller in order for the project to meet the important HPC Design Guidelines that will preserve the historic integrity of the home and lot,” wrote neighbor Patricia Glass in an Aug. 17-dated letter to city planner Kevin Rayes.

If the HPC acts on the recommendation of Rayes and planning director Amy Simon, then the project will pass. Similar to their memo to the HPC in June supporting the proposal’s approval (prior to the hearing’s postponement), Rayes and Simon again said in a memo in advance of this week’s meeting that the project satisfies criteria set by the city’s land use code and historic preservation guidelines. As well, the city is in serious need to of more housing for Aspen’s working-class, they said.

“The units at 1020 E. Cooper are proposed as rentals and will play a pivotal role in providing much needed housing to traditionally underserved individuals,” the memo said.

The five-unit project proposed for 1020 E. Cooper Ave. includes converting the old miner’s cabin into separate two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartment units, as well as building a structure behind the cabin with two two-bedroom apartments and one three-bedroom apartment. The proposal also calls for four covered parking spaces facing the alley.

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