The Aspen Historical Society has applied with the city of Aspen to subdivide its property at 620 W. Bleeker St. in order to limit development potential on the majority of the newly created parcel. AHS is seeking create Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) from 3,000 of the developable square feet, which would sterilize that area from development into the future. AHS also seeks to reserve 1,080 square feet to potentially be used for affordable housing in the future. In an effort to help everyone understand the application, here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Are you planning to sell off part of your property?
No. We plan to keep our property intact.
Are you planning to build on your property?
Not at this time. We are seeking approval to retain 1,080 square feet of development rights so that we could potentially build a small affordable housing duplex in the future. We currently have no plans to build the housing and may never do it, but we believe it would be shortsighted to give up all the development rights on that part of the property. If we did build affordable housing on the 1,080 square feet in the future, it would be used for our employees or visiting curators. Access would be via the current driveway. As everyone is aware, affordable housing is a constant challenge in Aspen. We currently have no affordable housing for our employees, unlike some nonprofits that house large percentages of their staffs. Anything we might build in the future would have to go through the requisite approval processes—HPC, etc.
Will you actually divide the property?
We will not be creating any physical division (fence, etc.) of the lot. The split into two lots is “on paper” only and will not change the appearance of the property.
What are you going to do with the split lots?
The new lot would be 9,000 square feet, which would yield 4,080 developable square feet. We are asking that 3,000 of the developable square feet be sterilized from development potential and converted to TDRs, which means we could not develop them but could sell those development rights in the future as a fundraising mechanism.
Why is the Historical Society applying for this right now?
Like any nonprofit, the Aspen Historical Society is continually looking for ways to raise money. By preserving the land through the creation of 12 TDRs, the Historical Society will gain TDRs that it could sell as necessary to fund projects and ensure the society’s success into the future, as determined by its Board of Trustees. For example, the Board could choose to sell some TDRs over time to build AHS’s endowment. TDRs move square footage allocations from areas where building is discouraged to parcels where it is encouraged through the sale of allowable square footage. TDRs are sold on the free market, but TDR requests must be approved by local governance.
Why do you need this funding source if you already receive public funds?
The Aspen Historical Society currently receives .3 mill from a special tax district in Pitkin County. We are grateful for this funding. But this voter-approved funding source was never meant to be our sole source of income, and AHS must raise and earn money to completely fund all its historic sites, collections, education, programming, and events. Any additional money received from the sale of TDRs would be used as directed by AHS’s Board of Trustees, for example, to build AHS’s endowment or fund special projects.
How will this change the park and grounds that are there now?
Our grounds are one of our greatest assets, and a source of revenue through rentals. We don’t want to compromise our beautiful grounds as it would not be in our own or the community’s best interest to do so. Immediately, it won’t change a thing. In the future, a very small 1,080-square-foot structure could be built on the northwest corner of the grounds with little impact on the park and grounds as a whole. That area is adjacent to our driveway and garbage collection area and is not used for events.
How can I get more information or comment on this application?
Don’t hesitate to call Kelly Murphy, AHS President/CEO at 925-3721. The application was on the July 27, 2015 City Council agenda for public comment, but the public comment has been postponed to a date TBD. Check our website, the City Council website, or give us a call at 925-3721 for an updated schedule.