Library, townhouse plans before Aspen council
ASPEN – Public hearings are scheduled Monday at Aspen City Hall on two major development proposals.
The Pitkin County Library expansion project will be discussed for the second time in as many weeks at the Aspen City Council’s regular meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. On June 11, council members and some area residents mentioned several flaws in the plan’s details, but the project also found favor with many members of the audience who rose to speak.
A sticking point that arose during the last meeting was whether a new rooftop canopy designed to cover the entire facility and extending 16 feet from the library’s east side would be too big. Many worried that it would shade a large portion of adjacent Galena Plaza, which the city is planning to redevelop, during afternoons and certain times of year.
The applicant in the project is Pitkin County government, but the city of Aspen is required to weigh in on its mass and scale. The two-story addition on the library’s eastern side would add 7,198 square feet: 5,899 on the main level and 1,299 on the mezzanine level. The library building, between Galena Plaza and North Mill Street, now has 31,703 square feet of floor space on three levels.
Last week, library director Kathy Chandler said some design changes to the $10 million project were being planned, including reducing the size of the canopy extension by a few feet. She said details would be forthcoming at tonight’s meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. The library matter has been placed in the middle of tonight’s agenda.
Another issue that could come up tonight is whether a November vote on the property tax would serve as a referendum on the library project itself. As plans now exist, were the council to approve the county’s land-use application for the project, there’s the possibility that the county could move forward with plans even if voters reject the tax-increase proposal. The Board of County Commissioners has not yet voted to place the item on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The library has $5.3 million in an endowment that can be used to pay for half of the construction costs, Chandler said last week. The other half would be covered by a 30-year loan, with revenue from the property tax increase covering the loan’s annual debt – should voters support the idea.
Officials have estimated that residential property owners would pay a little more than $16 per year for each $1 million of assessed value to support the library expansion and related operating costs. Commercial properties would pay a higher rate.
Council members also are expected to hold a public hearing Monday on a plan to build townhouses on a South Aspen Street property that formerly was part of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal. In 2003, the city gave approval for 17 affordable-housing units and 14 townhouses on the property.
The new owner of the property, ASV Aspen Street Owners LLC, has said it still wants to build 14 townhouses there but only 10 affordable-housing units on the 2.4-acre site. Another eight affordable-housing units would be constructed in the Aspen Business Center area.
In a recent meeting, some council members expressed the hope that a hotel still could be built on the site. For several years, the city has extended the developer’s vested rights for the property in the hope that a lodge project could still become a reality.
The developer’s representative, David Parker, has said the owners have determined that a lodge for the site isn’t economically feasible. Negotiations will continue Monday.
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No official vote has taken place, but the Dillon Town Council has decided to push forward with an ordinance at a future meeting despite a contentious debate that clearly divided council members on the issue.