St. Mary Church kicked back to Preservation Commission |

St. Mary Church kicked back to Preservation Commission

Aspen City Council voted 3-1 on Monday to send St. Mary Catholic Church’s expansion proposal back to the Historic Preservation Commission.

Council members, after hearing more than an hour of spirited arguments for and against an 8,300-square-foot pavilion and social hall on Main Street, said they couldn’t support the proposal in its current form.

By doing so, the City Council no longer will be involved in the process to approve or deny the project, which is now in the preservation commission’s hands.

The Historic Preservation Commission previously approved, by a 4-3 vote March 9, a 7,000-square-foot underground social hall that would be accessed by a pavilion and connector totaling 1,300 square feet that would be built in the church’s yard and accessed from Main Street.

The commission could decide to uphold its previous decision or scrutinize the project further. Council members suggested that the social hall and pavilion instead be constructed on the alleyway rather than Main Street.

“We feel it’s very respectful to the property and really engages the community by placing an entryway on Main Street and putting 90 percent of the facility underground,” said the Rev. John Hilton, who leads the 325-family congregation.

Other parishioners agreed, saying the pavilion, which architects and planners said would be mainly glass, and the underground hall would blend well with historic property.

Not all St. Mary-goers were on board.

Lisa Markalunas introduced a petition with names of parishioners against the Main Street development who favored the alleyway alternative instead.

“The architectural style, as presented today, is highly incompatible with the church building,” she argued.

Three of the four council members agreed, as well. Councilman Art Daily, who supported the March 9 decision by the commission, said the Main Street addition would benefit the church and community.

“I very much like the overall concept,” he said. “Placing most of the addition below grade is community sensitive, and the pavilion itself, in terms of above grade, is a modest proposal.”

The three other council members — Bert Myrin was away on vacation — weren’t keen on new development in the church’s community yard.

“I think the green space helps inform this historic experience,” Mayor Steve Skadron said, adding that “preservation should speak to not what is built, but the environment around it that is built.”

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