Officials finish interviews with interim Aspen council candidates |

Officials finish interviews with interim Aspen council candidates

Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council on Monday interviewed two more applicants seeking the interim council seat vacated recently by Dwayne Romero, who left his elected post to take a job as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s director of economic development.Monday’s interviews with former Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper and former Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission member Ruth Kruger bring the first round of question-and-answer sessions to a close. Last week, council members met with six other applicants – Cathy Markle, Adam Frisch, Marcia Goshorn, Howie Mallory, Jag Pagnucco and Cliff Weiss. Dan Kitchen also applied for the interim seat before the Feb. 17 deadline but has since dropped out. Selection of an interim council member will be up to Councilmen Derek Johnson, Steve Skadron and Torre, and Mayor Mick Ireland. They have 30 days in which to make a decision, but a special meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the appointment.Kruger and Kay-Clapper both touted their previous government experience. Kruger was a P&Z member for five years, finishing as its chairperson; Kay-Clapper served on the Board of County Commissioners for 12 years; term limits prevented her from seeking re-election last fall. Kruger, owner of commercial real estate brokerage Ruth Kruger & Company, said if chosen for the interim seat, she would not run for City Council in May. Kay-Clapper, who is currently seeking employment, said she was unsure whether she would seek election to a permanent seat. The May 3 election will feature two of four council seats – the one formerly held by Romero, the other currently occupied by Skadron, who plans to seek re-election. The mayor’s post is also up for re-election.Ireland asked the candidates what they would change, hypothetically, if given an opportunity to rethink a recent council decision. Kay-Clapper was quick to bring up the council’s decision last August to give conceptual approval for a new Aspen Art Museum facility at the corner of Hyman Avenue and Spring Street. Many in the community have decried the decision to allow a 47-foot-high, 30,000-square-foot museum in the heart of downtown Aspen. Critics said the process circumvented the normal land-use protocol and a full review by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The council’s approval stemmed from a lawsuit settlement with the owner of the site.Kay-Clapper said the approval process “should have been more open.” Kruger concurred, saying the process was “too abbreviated” – rushed through to avoid a lawsuit – and noted that only one public hearing was conducted.Kruger spoke of her previous experience on the P&Z, familiarity with city employees and extensive knowledge of local issues, particularly those related to development. Kay-Clapper mentioned that she is also “up to speed” on city issues and already knows Roberts Rules of Order.Skadron asked the applicants how they would have handled negotiations with a private developer who wanted to build luxury houses on the Given Institute property in Aspen’s West End. Those negotiations recently broke down when councilmen and P&Z members failed to show support for the developer’s plans, which included giving the city a one-year option to find a suitable buyer for the Given building in order to save the property from demolition.Kay-Clapper said a complete free-market development on Given property would not be suitable for the scenic area near Hallam Lake. Kruger said the city should have given more thought to joining forces with the University of Colorado, which owns the land and wants to sell it. The city could have sought to assist CU with the $200,000 annual maintenance on the property in order to preserve it for public use, she said.In other remarks, Kruger said she disagreed with portions of the rewrite of the Aspen Area Community Plan, and that the document carries a tone that is “not friendly” and “punitive.”Asked what the city has done well, Kay-Clapper mentioned the upgrade of the Rio Grande Recycling Center as an example of how government stepped in and fixed something that wasn’t initially planned or constructed