Aspen compromising its zoning laws

I read the recent article by Carolyn Sackariason “Aspen developer claims NIMBYism” with interest. I believe she missed the essence of the controversy, which is that we are a country of laws and no one is supposed to be above the law.

The property in question is mostly in the R-30 zoned area of Oklahoma flats, which was annexed to the city in the 1960s. At this time, the city of Aspen presumed the lots undevelopable due to their convoluted layout and extreme steepness.

Doug Allen, a local land developer, bought the property in 1991 and until the time he sold it in December 2018 to Peter Fornell, it was assessed as token open space value by the county. To support this claim, it is a fact that the Pitkin County assessor valued the property for a mere $20,000 through at least 2017. Fornell bought the property in December 2018 for a reported $800,000. What changed other than the ownership? How can a property increase 40 times in a year? Zoning laws, easements, etc. are associated with the land and not typically modified with the transfer of owners or potential owners. Did Allen or Fornell have an assurance the zoning law could be circumvented?

When I purchase a property in a specifically zoned area, I expect everyone to be treated in a consistent manner in that zoned area. When a new purchaser is treated significantly different, it destroys my confidence in the law and those responsible for enforcing existing laws. In my letter of protest to the Board of Adjustments I stated, “I urge caution as this may set a precarious precedent for the entire city and make current zoning laws essentially a mere pretense”.

To summarize, how would you like a special 3-foot set back allowance granted to a new owner next to your property which your family has owned for over 70 years, considering that you have relied on and adhered to the existing zoning laws during the entire time of your property ownership? Does this mean that the city of Aspen is willing to offer zoning variances that allow a 3-foot property setback to all property owners in the future? I believe that this sets an alarming precedent.

Dick Volk