Temporary tent on Aspen restaurant gets another year of life

For the sixth time, the proprietor of Mr. Grey received approval from Aspen City Council to have a temporary canvas tent around the outdoor seating of the restaurant.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times


Aspen City Council members on Tuesday reluctantly approved a $97,000 traffic study centered on the roundabout and Maroon and Castle creek roads.

Council member Ward Hauenstein and Mayor Torre expressed reservations about such an expensive study.

However, they were eventually convinced by colleague Rachel Richards and Pete Rice, who works in the city’s engineering department, that the project will provide critical data for future decisions on changes to the traffic circle.

The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to partner with the city in 2022 to replace the asphalt with concrete, because the roundabout, which sees thousands of cars daily, is prone to potholes each year.

The city will get holistic data on traffic patterns from each entry point of the roundabout, as well as how the Cemetery Lane stop light plays a role in backups during peak times.

“I don’t get how we are getting $97,000 worth of information,” Hauenstein said, adding that he does support concrete in the roundabout. “I’m not jumping for joy approving a $97,000 study.”

Torre had similar comments, saying the council has seen some “fatigue with extra circular studies.”

Regardless, council approved 4-0 a contract with Kimley-Horn, a planning and design consulting firm with an office in Snowmass.

“I see this as at least we are doing something to ease congestion,” Richards said.

Possible changes include metering signals to help create gaps in traffic, as well as softening curb extensions, or reconfigurations within the existing roundabout, including new signs.

The consultant will collect data with cameras and overhead drones to gather counts, turning motions, conflict patterns, vehicle trajectory, driver perception and merge patterns. Council also approved commercial and skier valet parking at the Hyatt Grand Aspen, rather than taking up several spaces on Hunter Street near the gondola, as was done last season.

It’s designed to be a short-term solution to aid in relieving commercial core parking while testing the use for the 2019/2020 winter ski season.

Finally, council approved an escrow agreement with the developers of Lift One Lodge to set aside the city’s $4.36 million contribution toward the voter-approved Lift One redevelopment plan at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side.

An Aspen restaurateur has been allowed an exception to a rule that’s designed to prevent inappropriate structures in the downtown historic district.

Aspen City Council on Tuesday granted a temporary use permit to Ryan Chadwick, owner of Mr. Grey Aspen, formerly The Grey Lady, so that he can cover his patio trellis with a plastic canvas tent during the winter season, and add just less than 800 square feet to the restaurant.

Council’s decision goes against the city’s commercial design standards, which were written to reflect the community’s desire to “generally prohibit the temporary use of fabric or tent-like enclosures,” according to Kevin Rayes, a planner in the city’s Community Development Department.

“This is a very prominent location in the (commercial core historic district) and continues to serve as precedent for the many other establishments that may desire this type of ‘temporary’ structure over pedestrian amenity spaces,” he wrote in a memo to council recommending denial. “Staff finds the structure is out of character with the historic district and does not wish to encourage structures constructed of such impermanent materials for such a length of time.”

The temporary use approval, which has been granted several times in various degrees of length, goes from Dec. 18 through March 31.

Chadwick will likely not be asking again since the building, located on the Mill Street pedestrian mall, is planned to be razed and rebuilt by owner Mark Hunt next year.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards agreed that the tent sets a precedent that other restaurants may want in the future but because it’s only for another year, she agreed to it — with a condition: that Chadwick host a winter market on Saturday and Sundays for area artists and growers.

She also said the market, created prior to this year, appears to be a “whitewash” for extra floor area.

“Historic standards should be applied across the board,” she said. “Who knows if this is temporary forever, but for one year I am not going to drop the ax.”

Tuesday’s application is the sixth annual request for covering the trellis.

Chadwick noted that each time he has to pay the $1,300 permit fee application and almost $5,000 in mitigation for the covered area.

“I didn’t want to come here and ask for this,” he said, adding if he didn’t cover the seating area it would just pile up with snow and be an eyesore in the middle of downtown. “Hopefully this is the last time I have to ask for this.”

Chadwick has requested and received temporary use approval for the tent during the 2014-15 winter season, the 2015-16 holiday season, the 2017-18 winter season and now the 2019-20 winter season.

It was in January 2015 that council was clear that it was a one-time approval and Chadwick should not return to renew the request, according to Rayes.

In October of that year, council denied the request to erect the tent for the duration of the winter season. Council was concerned with the tent’s use of plastic and canvas materials and questioned the temporary nature of a structure that kept reappearing seasonally, according to Rayes.

But then in December, elected officials granted an 11-day temporary use approval.

And then in December 2016, council granted a 14-day, temporary use approval.

The city’s code allows council to grant temporary use approval for up to 180 consecutive days within a calendar year, for no more than 10 years.

Linda Manning, former Aspen city clerk whose last day was Tuesday, spoke during public comment in favor of Chadwick’s proposal, noting that other establishments like the St. Regis and the Hotel Jerome have received multi-year temporary use permits for outdoor tents.

“Why is he the only local person who has to do this?” she said. “If he can get an extra 40 seats that’s great.”

City officials countered that they can’t be seen from the public rights of way like at Mr. Grey.

Others spoke in favor of the winter market, including Aspen resident Patti Clapper who is a Pitkin County commissioner and said agricultural products grown on government open space could be made available at the winter market.