New Aspen restaurant heading for government review | AspenTimes.com

New Aspen restaurant heading for government review

The restaurant group that owns the White House Tavern in downtown Aspen is preparing to develop the building next door for another restaurant.

Hillstone Restaurant Group Inc. is proposing to tear down the current building where the Aspen Brewery and Over Easy restaurant once lived. It will be replaced with a two-story structure with a one-story flat roof building — essentially a basement with a street-level space. Hillstone is proposing to reduce the net commercial space by 1,402 square feet.

The building would be set back slightly from the White House Tavern, said Sara Adams, an Aspen-based land-use planner for Hillstone.

She went before the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board of directors Wednesday as the first stop in the development review process.

The board approved Hillstone's plan to not replace the two low-income studio apartments that are in the current building. Instead, the restaurant group will provide housing credits for the equivalent of 2.5 employees. The value of that is just over $950,000, said APCHA Executive Director Mike Kosdrosky.

Hillstone is theoretically out of compliance with housing rules since no one currently lives in the units, which are smaller than 500 square feet and are inhabitable because they don't meet city code on a number of fronts.

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City attorney Jim True said previous approvals attached to the current building require that people who work in Pitkin County live in those units.

He said Hillstone representatives and the city's community development department are discussing possible solutions. True couldn't elaborate on what they might be.

"It has to go a bit further to solve," he said. "But I do think it can be resolved."

In a memo to the board, Cindy Christensen, APCHA's deputy director, said staff recognizes the broader policy concerns for allowing existing affordable-housing units to remain unoccupied for an unspecified period of time during development and entitlement review.

It also raises the issue of whether this applicant or any other ones are responsible for maintaining and renting out units until a new building permit is issued.

She added that these issues are for Aspen City Council to address in its land-use code.

Adams said Hillstone's land-use application will go before the historic preservation commission June 13 for conceptual review.

csackariason@aspentimes.com