New plan for Aspen’s Silver Lining Ranch
December 18, 2009
ASPEN – The pending buyer of the Silver Lining Ranch plans to use the property for a single-family structure and let former tennis pro Andrea Jaeger use the facility for her Little Star Foundation for the next five years.
Out of the picture is Rabbi Mendel Mintz, who heads the Chabad of Aspen and had the property under contract until September. Mintz said Thursday he has no hope of acquiring the ranch for a Jewish community center.
The Chabad has approvals for a 34,000-square-foot campus where the L’Auberge D’Aspen cabins are on Main Street, which is where Mintz said he plans to build the community center.
He had diverted from the Main Street location when the Silver Lining Ranch became available, but litigation threats from nearby neighbors forced him to terminate his contract to buy the 14,000-square-foot property, which is located on 6.5 acres at the end of Ute Avenue.
And now that it appears that litigation between Jaeger’s nonprofit organization and the Stillwater Ranch Open Space Association won’t end anytime soon, Mintz is focusing on his original plan.
“We are on Main Street, and we plan to stay on Main Street,” he said. “The issue is that the [ranch] is under contract and the HOA has threatened to sue if we go there.”
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Mintz said he wishes Jaeger well and hopes her sale to the unnamed buyer helps her keep the Little Star Foundation alive with the proceeds.
The Silver Lining Ranch once operated as a respite for terminally ill children with cancer and was home to the Little Star Foundation, which moved near Durango and has expanded to help children and their families around the world.
The hybrid use of a single-family home and a retreat for ill children is what’s being proposed by the prospective buyer, and is key to the covenants of the HOA, which were amended in January. The new owner would let the Little Star Foundation use the property to hold community enrichment programs.
The amendment restricts the use of the property to either a single-family home or the original uses of the Little Star Foundation. The homeowners’ association had repeatedly argued that a Jewish community center is not allowed under the covenants.
Ed Zasacky, the listing real estate broker for the ranch, said the hybrid proposal fits both of those restrictions and should be agreeable to the HOA and the Aspen City Council, which has to approve a change to the property under what’s known as a “specially planned area.”
“It’s really the only thing that can happen,” he said. “It’s sort of a compromise and satisfies the trump card.”
In August Jaeger’s nonprofit sued the HOA, claiming that neighboring homeowners were blocking the sale of the Silver Lining Ranch to the Chabad.
It’s likely that the litigation will last for years, which is why Jaeger has pursued another buyer.
“[The Chabad] doesn’t want to be involved anymore,” she said. “It’s a situation that can’t be changed.”
The property is under contract, but the sale will not close until after the City Council approves the proposal.
Land planner Mitch Haas represents the owner and Jaeger. He said an application is being worked on and will be given to the city in January.
Council members in the past said they wanted the property to be used for a nonprofit, not a single-family home. In 2007, the council denied a single-family use when Jaeger hoped to sell the ranch to a private party.
Jaeger said she believes the arrangement with the prospective buyer satisfies all parties involved, or those who have a stake in what happens on the property.
“It keeps the same use of a nonprofit,” Jaeger said, adding there won’t be the high level of traffic on Ute Avenue that the Jewish Community Center would have attracted. “It’s a great solution for the community.”
Zasacky said if the property is allowed to be used both as a private home and the original use, there would be no change in the impact of what was experienced years ago – it would be the same number of employees and car trips.
Meanwhile, Jaeger’s foundation is in financial disarray. She said she was relying on the sale of the property to continue the foundation’s charitable activities of providing financial and other assistance to children with cancer and their families.
The pending sale would help pay off the loans on the ranch property, and allow the Little Star Foundation to continue operating.
The sale price will likely be lower than the $13.5 million deal with the Chabad that was supposed to close in June.
“It will be enough to support the loans that funded these programs,” Jaeger said.