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The message is clear

Aspen, CO Colorado

Score one for the Aspen Area Community Plan.

Adopted by resolution in 2000 and commonly referred to as the AACP, it is the master plan for Aspen – from the mass and scale of local development to traffic counts and town character.

The AACP, along with the city’s land-use code and the city charter, is one of the three primary documents elected officials use when they decide a proposed development’s fate.

Yet the AACP, a document that evolves through the input of community members, is not without its critics. Some believe it is not a legally binding document and should not determine the fate of a project.

But a judge’s ruling Wednesday sent a strong message that the AACP does have legal teeth, and in doing so, nixed the proposed expansion of the Wienerstube building in downtown Aspen.

The owners of the building, located at 307 S. Spring St., sued the city of Aspen after the council denied their application to subdivide the property and build a 47,000-square-foot, mixed-use complex that would include six free-market condos, 12 affordable housing units, the Wienerstube restaurant, Ajax Bike and Sports, and four to five smaller, affordable commercial spaces.

633 Spring II LLC, which owns the building, also proposed to build as high as 42 feet.

Generally speaking, council members denied the project because they felt its mass and scale were out of character with the neighborhood, and the development was inconsistent with the AACP.

In her ruling, Judge Gail Nichols refuted the plaintiff’s claims that the provisions of the AACP were vague as they applied to the Wienerstube application. Her ruling emphasized that the character of the neighborhood, as seen through the eyes of City Council and applied through the AACP, was relevant to the council’s rejection of the application.

Nichols also noted that the plaintiffs failed to conduct “public outreach” about their development. A provision of the AACP calls for developers to “engage in outreach” with project neighbors.

“Here, according to the public and City Council, it was the size, mass and height of the proposed building that would have prevented the maintenance of the character of the existing neighborhood or built environment,” Nichols wrote. “It was plaintiff’s failure to reach out to the public to address how to better maintain the character of the existing neighborhood that Councilman [Dwayne] Romero repeatedly talked about.”

Nichols then succinctly wrote: “Plaintiff never addressed this provision – rather, it chose to simply ignore it.”

That statement alone should send a message to developers that the AACP is vital to any project. To disregard the concerns of neighbors – even if they are NIMBYs – is to ignore the AACP.


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