Preservation project in jeopardy after P&Z vote
Plans to restore the historic Mona Frost house were placed in jeopardy Tuesday when the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the proposed conversion of the home into a duplex.The P&Z voted 4-1 against allowing the duplex as a conditional use in the R-6 zone district, though the Historic Preservation Commission endorsed the project. The ability to develop a duplex on a historic property is among the incentives allowed by the city for preservation projects.The preservation/renovation of the dilapidated Frost home, located at 216 E. Hallam St., next to the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center, has already received HPC approval.Local resident Camilla Auger, who purchased the home with her development partner, expressed surprise at the P&Z’s decision and said it could jeopardize plans to restore both the house and the barn behind it, which are both in a state of disrepair.”We are looking at the various options,” she said after the conclusion of last night’s hearing. “It’s a very punitive decision for the project, which we really hadn’t anticipated. It’s not clear we can go forward with this project.”During last night’s hearing, Auger and her representatives indicated the project could go forward without the duplex; the house would still be expanded, but would be a single-family home.After the meeting though, Auger expressed doubt that the project is doable without the duplex and said she would consider an appeal to the City Council.”I’d love to do the project under any circumstances,” she said. “I have to make it work in the real world.”Plans for the property call for the division of the former Frost parcel into two lots – one containing the barn to the rear and another encompassing the house. The barn and a proposed new addition would create a 2,509-square-foot, four-bedroom home with a caretaker unit. The house would be expanded to a 3,740-square-foot duplex with three bedrooms in each unit.Auger’s proposal also called for landscaping improvements along the pedestrian/bicycle path behind the property and the Red Brick, as well. The city-owned driveway next to the Red Brick is to serve as both a pedestrian link to the bike path and as the access to the two lots – an arrangement OK’d last week by the City Council.Several neighboring residents or their representatives voiced objections to the duplex, contending the density of the project is out of character with the surrounding area.They also questioned the hope voiced by Auger that duplex units might be attainable by full-time local residents.”There has been no discussion on the estimated sale price of these units. It has been conspicuously absent,” said attorney Hal Dishler, representing Joseph Amato, who owns the home next door.”I live in a caretaker unit because I can’t afford how many millions of dollars they will sell these duplexes for,” said Denise Diers.Some members of the P&Z, however, agreed the duplex units are more likely to attract full-time residents than is a single-family home.”These are less likely to be trophy homes,” said Jasmine Tygre, commission chairwoman.”Ironically, by denying the duplex, you will increase the chance it will be a vacant trophy home,” agreed P&Z member Eric Cohen.Other local residents praised the plan to restore the 19th-century home, where the late Mona Frost, a longtime local teacher, resided for many years.”I have to say I am impressed with what is being presented for the renovation and preservation of this historic resource,” said Jamiebea Hall, who was once a student in Frost’s classroom.Auger told the P&Z she had not anticipated neighborhood opposition to the duplex proposal.”It was not our position that we were asking for something horrific,” she said.In denying the duplex, some P&Z members said they felt it was inconsistent with the neighborhood, though they praised the preservation aspects of the project.The size of the duplex OK’d by the HPC bothered member Ron Erickson, who called it “entirely too big and too dense” for the neighborhood.Cohen was troubled by the potential for conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians using the driveway.He proposed approval of the duplex with the condition that the driveway, a public right of way, be restricted to use only by authorized vehicles and pedestrians. The applicants agreed to the proposal, but the P&Z voted it down, 3-2.
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