Vague facility in Zoline plan troubles City Council | AspenTimes.com

Vague facility in Zoline plan troubles City Council

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A request for 25,000 square feet of vaguely defined facilities on the Zoline family’s Bar/X Ranch didn’t get far with the Aspen City Council on Tuesday.

The Zolines, who are preparing a final application for development of their property, touched base with the council at a work session yesterday.

The city and the Zolines are partners in a preannexation agreement that spells out free-market development on the Bar/X Ranch and the city’s planned Burlingame affordable-housing project on adjacent land. John Lifton, representing the Zolines, and the city clarified a few particulars contained in the agreement, but the council balked at giving any sort of a blanket OK for the undefined facilities.

The preannexation deal allows “agricultural, equestrian, recreation, or open space activities, and cultural and academic activities” on the Bar/X Ranch. The Zolines’ conceptual plans designate 6.1 acres near the existing ranch house compound for up to 25,000 square feet of facilities to accommodate uses that would fit within those parameters.

“We’re not talking about a huge institutional use,” Lifton said.

The facilities could house nonprofit uses or something that relates to the cattle ranch’s agricultural activities, for example, he said.

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The conceptual plan proposes that the facilities be classified as “essential public facilities” as defined in the city’s land-use code, which would exempt them from Aspen’s growth-management competition. The Zolines have also proposed that the floor area of the facilities not be counted, which means no mitigation for housing or other impacts would be imposed, noted Julie Ann Woods, the city’s head planner.

“I think it’s premature for the city to grant them this ability, because we don’t know exactly what John’s future plans are,” Woods said.

In a memo, Woods suggested the council consider whether or not they agree that such uses as a guest ranch, riding academy, private school or university, research facility, auditorium, gallery, museum or library, among other things, meet the intent of the language included in the preannexation agreement.

“I’ve never been comfortable with this part of the agreement,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.

It would be difficult for the council to agree to an exemption from growth management and possible mitigation requirements without knowing what the facilities may turn out to be, City Attorney John Worcester told Lifton.

“The possibilities under this language are so broad,” Worcester said.

“Let’s face it, a riding academy is going to have a lot less impact than a university, or a research center, or an auditorium,” Woods said.

Lifton agreed to provide more specifics about the facilities when the Zolines have a final application ready to review, which will probably be in September.

“It would give me comfort if you did that,” said Councilman Tom McCabe.

The council also made it clear that they did not want Stage Road leading to the planned subdivision on the ranch blocked with a gate, as proposed in the Zolines’ conceptual plan.

“The city has always taken a position that gated communities are not their thing,” Woods said.

Lifton assured the council the Zolines “detest” that approach, as well, but they want some sort of ranch gate to control cattle.

“We need to have some way of being able to close the road off from time to time when livestock are being moved,” he said.

The gate would be open most of the time, Lifton said. The council told him to come up with an alternative to the gate.

The Zolines are moving forward on a development plan that will also include 12 luxury homes with caretaker residences, a cabin along Maroon Creek, a ranch manager’s house and up to four residences on the ranch’s “fathering parcel.”

The city has the right to construct up to 330 units of affordable housing as part of the deal.

Once the Zolines have a final approval from the city, their development rights are good for 25 years under the terms of the deal. The family has no time line in mind for pursing the development, but will do nothing during family patriarch Joe Zoline’s lifetime, Lifton said. Zoline is 91 years old.

“At this point, we have no plans to proceed with anything,” Lifton said.

The Bar/X Ranch and city-owned Burlingame Ranch stretch between Maroon Creek and Highway 82, west of town. The combined lands border the Maroon Creek Club to the north and east. Much of the acreage will be conserved as open space under the terms of the preannexation deal.

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