Reversal of fortune for Aspen applicants seeking demo permits

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Reversal of fortune for Aspen applicants seeking demo permits

After further review, city of Aspen officials have overruled their original position that the six residential demolition allotments available this year will go to property owners represented by the same firm.

The city’s reversal means two clients of the firm BendonAdams each will receive demolition permits, while the city eliminated from consideration six of the firm’s other clients that had seemingly made the top eight spots during the city’s application process that opened Aug. 8. Qualifying email applications were to be awarded demo permits on a first come, first served basis.

City officials said their change of mind was in response to 406 emails for eight properties BendonAdams sent that morning. Citing city code that prohibits multiple land-use applications for one property, officials said they determined six of of BendonAdams’ eight clients had done just that. The other applicants submitted one email application per property, according to the city. Applicants were informed by the city on Friday about the change.

“The situation created by the email barrage that required us to look very closely at standards of the land-use code for the submission and review of land-use applications,” Phillip Supino, the director of the city’s community development department, said this week.

He said an IT analysis and a legal determination “about how to properly award the demolition allotments per the regulations in the land-use code required including more information than just the timing of the emails. The situation created by the email barrage required us to look very closely at the standards of the land-use code for the submission and review of land-use applications.”

The decision did not sit well with BendonAdams and was applauded by one of the applicants who was originally told by the city they didn’t make the cut.

“Our clients, especially long-time locals, are incensed with the City’s behavior,” firm partner Chris Bendon said in an email to The Aspen Times. “These property owners feel especially mistreated. The property owners are considering all options, including possible legal action.”

He said the the firm simply followed the guidelines set by the city.

“We worked closely with planning staff to prepare and submit the demo applications pursuant to the newly-adopted code,” he said. “We met with them in person, reviewed our applications with them beforehand, reviewed exactly how to submit and responded in good faith. We relied on their guidance and their interpretation of their process.”

Andrew Roberts — who, with Christian Butler, represent the owners of a Riverside Drive property — had a different take because the city first told them they didn’t make the top six email slots, only to hear last week they’d be getting a demo permit after all.

“We’re pleased, obviously,” Roberts said. “We were actually really thrilled at how quick the city was able to sort this out, and we think what they did was really equitable. We’re proud of the city, we are.”

The city introduced a new policy on demolition permits for residential properties this year as part of its retooling of the land-use code to slow down development. The Aspen City Council voted in support of limiting the number of annual demo permits to six.

Bendon said his firm followed the rules.

“Each property had only one application,” his email said. “The City accepted them, deemed them complete, accepted review fees and reviewed them. The City was outspoken about their process and the outcome in August and spent the past seven weeks figuring out a way to change the outcome instead of revising the process. It’s totally reckless.”

Said Supino: “There were some differences between the six initial applications that were determined to have come through our email servers first, and the final six which were deemed eligible for the additional allotments.”

By: Rick Carroll I Aspen Times I September 28, 2022

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