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You call a remodel?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The near demolition of a couple of old Aspen apartment buildings have focused the city’s attention on its rather liberal definition of “remodeling.”

An emergency ordinance before the City Council tonight would give developers less leeway in rebuilding multifamily buildings under the guise of remodeling. The distinction between demolition and remodeling is important, since demolishing a free-market, multifamily building requires the replacement of at least half the units with affordable housing, while a remodeling project does not.

An amendment to the land-use code to redefine “demolition” has been in the works for awhile, but two recent projects definitely caught the City Council’s attention, according to Chris Bendon, the city’s long-range planner.

Last month, the city issued a stop-work order on the redevelopment of the Pines Lodge at the corner of Durant Avenue and Aspen Street while zoning officials checked to make sure so much of the apartment building hadn’t disappeared that the project no longer qualified as a remodeling job. They concluded it hadn’t, and the remodeling of the nine-unit building was allowed to proceed.

The “remodeling” of an apartment building behind the US Bank on Main Street further drove home the need for a new definition of the word.

As allowed under the current code, the building was gutted of all interior partitioning, the front face and the roof. Only the back wall and two side walls, with gaping holes where windows once existed, were retained.

“Any reasonable person who looks at that would say, ?That looks like a demolition to me,? ? said City Attorney John Worcester.

The code, however, defines it as a remodeling project, so no replacement of housing to mitigate for the displacement of the old building’s residents was required.

“We didn’t get anything, and he [the developer] is stuck with three walls that probably would be designed differently if he had his choice,” Worcester said.

Under the new code amendments, the complete removal of interior partitioning would not qualify as a remodeling. In addition, structural elements of the remaining walls, not just their exterior surface, and the roof structure will also be part of the calculation in determining a demolition versus a remodeling, according to Bendon.

The emergency nature of the proposed ordinance is an effort to avoid a rash of applications for demolition permits before it can take effect, Bendon said.

First reading of the ordinance is scheduled before the council today, with second reading and final adoption on Nov. 12, after which it would immediately go into effect. Typically, an ordinance does not go into effect for 30 days after its adoption.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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