Aspen, the HPC and its magic wand
Once in a beautiful town called Aspen, there was an historic cabin owned by iconic Aspen Times columnist Su Lum. For years Su lived there, caring for her home and gardens on her lovely little lot. Su loved Aspen and its people and was known to speak truth to power.
Sadly, Su passed away and her property was sold to a couple who worked with a local architect, formerly a chair of Aspen Historical Preservation Commission, who submitted plans for the property. Although the historic cabin plans were nice, the addition’s mass and scale weren’t compliant with HPC’s own guidelines, nor was its height.
In the end, after neighbors pushed back on the size and height, the new owners sold the property to a corporate real estate developer, also a former AHPC chair. He then hired a planner, who … yep, also used to be on AHPC (what are the chances?).
The idea’s to build five affordable housing units so that the developer can claim the afffordable-housing credits which he can either apply to another more lucrative property development project or sell. You see, this story is really about money, Honey — about the pot of gold at the end of the affordable-housing rainbow.
And this time the plans for the project were even bigger and taller, a giant, with only four parking spaces for the 10 to 20 adults who could end up living on this tiny lot in this already crowded area. And here’s the plot twist, even though HPC is tasked with respecting and advocating for Aspen’s historic resources, apparently they’ve willingly been given a magic wand, like a fairy housing godmother, to wave at any troublesome issue they want to disappear. Addition’s too tall? Poof! Addition’s too big? Poof! Not enough parking? Poof!
With a flick of their wrists all the guidelines that other people restoring historic homes must obey magically disappear. And guess what Su Lum could not abide? Aspen HPC’s capricious application of their guidelines and its incestuous Board, replete with architects and real estate professionals. A grim tale indeed. The end of this story is not yet written but the neighborhood hopes that fairness and equity will prevail.
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