Neighbors sue to stop visitors center | AspenTimes.com
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Neighbors sue to stop visitors center

Janet Urquhart

Seven Galena Lofts homeowners are suing the Aspen City Council and the developers of the proposed new visitors center building that will block views from their condos.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in district court, is but the latest development over a project that is already the subject of a citizen referendum and an unusual gift to the city.

Representatives of the Galena Lofts Homeowners Association could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Lowell Meyer, a partner in the visitors center development, said: “It’s hysterical to me. It sounds like an act of desperation. I’m certain that, eventually, sanity will prevail.”

Meyer and Gary Freedman are partners in Millennium Plaza LLC, which owns the Main Street property slated for the visitors center. Millennium Plaza has been named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with the City Council.

Mayor Helen Klanderud expressed surprise over the filing of the suit Wednesday, but declined to comment, as she had not seen the complaint.

The homeowners have asked the court to set aside the council’s approval of the project and declare the development proposal a violation of covenants that they contend apply to the visitors center parcel.

Last month, the council approved a mixed-use building on the corner of Main and Galena streets that is to house a new visitors center, as well as offices for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. Other office space and free-market housing is also in the plans.

The parcel, which fronts Main Street, is directly in front of the newly redeveloped Galena Lofts, and the views from many of those condos would be affected by the visitors center building.

Opponents of the project, including Galena Lofts homeowners, have initiated a referendum petition that would force the project to a public vote. They expect to turn in the petitions to the city clerk on Monday.

Meanwhile, Meyer announced last week that he and Freedman would give the space in the building designated for the visitors center and ACRA offices to the city. The city had intended to purchase the space for $1.03 million and then lease it to the ACRA.

That move likely appeased citizens who objected to the project on the basis of its cost to taxpayers. Others, however, contend the constricted corner with limited parking is the wrong locale for a visitors center, regardless of its now-eliminated financial impact on the city.

The lawsuit contends Galena Lofts homeowners relied on covenants that apply to the visitors center property when they bought their condos. The restrictions assured them that the type of project approved by the city would not occur, according to the suit.

The property was once part of a larger parcel that also encompassed what is now the Galena Lofts, as well as the adjacent US Bank.

The parcel was split in two and then split again, dividing the east half that contains the Galena Lofts and visitors center parcel, but convenants dating back to 1994 restrict development on all of the pieces, according to the suit.

The project approved by the council exceeds the floor area allowed by commercial core zoning and varies from the zoning code in other respects, according to the lawsuit. In doing so, it also violates the convenants, the suit contends.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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