Tweaked county building plans on way to council

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Most of the members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission approved plans Wednesday for a new Pitkin County building, though they had a few conditions, officials said Thursday.

“Overall we saw a pretty positive response to the project,” said Jon Peacock, Pitkin County manager.

County officials plan to gut the current 17,000-square-foot building at 530 E. Main St., completely reconfigure and rebuild the inside, add a 23,000-square-foot building to the back of it and an 8,000-square-foot, 12-space parking garage underneath it. The $22 million building is slated to be finished by fall 2017.

City planning staff wanted three changes to the building, including reducing the mass and scale of the building’s north side, increasing the distance between the proposed addition and the Pitkin County Courthouse next door and better tying the building’s architectural elements to both the courthouse and the current county building, said Justin Barker, senior planner for the city.

“The architectural features didn’t really match either building,” Barker said.

Peacock said he thinks the architectural tweaks can be accommodated. However, the issues of mass and the proximity of the new addition to the courthouse will likely be more difficult to address, he said.

That’s because the building must fit on a relatively constricted area, Peacock said. City staff suggested putting some of the building under Veteran’s Park, though Peacock said that is something county officials want to avoid.

“Those two issues are much more difficult to accommodate — if we can accommodate them at all,” Peacock said.

That said, however, county officials want a building that meets the community’s needs and satisfies the city’s design parameters, he said.

“Our hope is we’ll be able to arrive at something we all agree on,” Peacock said.

Historic Preservation Commission members voted 4-1 to approve the plans with the city staff conditions.

Still, if the City Council denies the county’s plans, state law allows commissioners to override the denial with a majority vote. That same law says governmental buildings must be addressed within 60 days, or the plans are deemed approved.

The county submitted its application March 18, meaning the city has until May 18 to make a decision. The City Council is scheduled to address the plans April 25 on first reading and at a public hearing May 9, Barker said.