Land-use lawsuits rare for Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Land-use lawsuits rare for Aspen

Carolyn SackariasonAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Lawsuits against City Hall levied by developers over land-use issues are few and far between in Aspen. The lawsuit filed this week by the owners of the Cooper Street Pier building over the Aspen City Councils denial of their redevelopment project is only one of a handful that have been slapped on City Hall in the past decade.And the city has been victorious in defending all of them.The city has not lost a land-use case in recent memory, City Attorney John Worcester said Wednesday.Thats partly because its much more difficult for the plaintiff to prove its case than it is for the government.Plaintiffs have the burden of proof, Worcester said. They have to prove that the [City Council] abused their discretion.That is what JS Cooper Street LLC is alleging in its lawsuit that the City Council abused its discretion when it denied subdivision approval for the Cooper Street Pier redevelopment.The lawsuit was filed by JS Cooper Street LLC, headed by high-end real estate agent Joshua Saslove, and a host of other LLCs controlled by such Aspen businessmen as Ron Garfield and Nikos Hecht.They argue, through their attorney, David Lenyo of the Garfield & Hecht law firm, that because the application in question was a request for subdivision approval, the City Council was limited on its review of the project and can’t legally deny it on its merits related to land use.And because the council rejected the application based on land-use issues, it exceeded its jurisdiction and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, the lawsuit alleges.Worcester said there are two pending land-use lawsuits against the city. The most recent one was levied by the neighbors over the Christ Episcopal Churchs pending development application.The other case, filed in 2004 by Hyman Avenue Holdings LLC, is suing City Hall over whether developer Peter Fornell has a right to initiate a proposed ordinance, to be approved by voters, that would allow him to build an automated parking garage in the city.More high profile land-use lawsuits both filed in 1999 were levied by the Maroon Creek Club over the development of affordable housing for the Music Associates of Aspen and the Friends of Marolt, which sued the city over the Entrance to Aspen. The city prevailed in both cases.Worcester said the current and past city councils that he has served have been savvy about land-use law, which helps explain the low number of lawsuits. Theyve been conscientious about their duties and trying to apply the facts to the law, he said. City officials have 20 days to respond to the Cooper Street lawsuit.The redevelopment proposal had secured approval to demolish the existing three-story building and develop a four-story commercial and residential building, comprising 3,827 square feet of net leasable space divided among the basement, first and second floors. A 2,008-square-foot, free-market condo would take up the third and fourth floors.csack@aspentimes.com

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