The anonymous developer seeking to construct single-family homes around the Given Institute has proposed shrinking those houses by about 1,000 square feet each, according to an amended application.
The proposal, submitted by Haas Land Planning on behalf of SC Acquisitions, LLC, also adjusts the building envelopes of potential homes in order to save a number of trees on the site.
The city’s community development department is still recommending denial of the application and is asking for either the removal or the drastic shrinking of the home that would be between the Given conference center building and a bluff overlooking the Hallam Lake Nature Preserve.
On Wednesday, a joint session of the city’s Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions will hold a second public hearing on the Given development proposal before making a recommendation to Aspen City Council.
At the first hearing, held on Jan. 4, the plan was widely panned by members of both commissions and the public.
Criticisms included the number of trees that would be cut down, the development bonuses sought and the overall effect the homes would have on the park-like setting around the Given.
Council will hold its first public hearing on the proposal Jan. 24.
The Given Institute, a conference center located in the West End neighborhood, opened in 1973 to host medical research seminars. The property is currently owned by the University of Colorado and is under contract to the anonymous developer for $13.8 million.
The university has been trying to sell the property for the last year and a half, looking to the potential eight-figure sale for relief from declining state funding.
The potential buyer is proposing to subdivide the 2.25-acre site on a bluff overlooking Hallam Lake into four lots. One of those lots would contain the 12,000-square-foot conference center, while the other three would be for single-family homes.
If the development plan is approved, the owner would agree to a voluntary historic designation for the Given building, known for its modernist architecture, and would offer the city of Aspen an option to buy the building for $3.75 million.
The developer’s original application asked for three 5,500-square-foot homes, with the ability to increase the sizes to 5,750 square feet with the landing of transferable development rights. Underlying zoning would limit the size of those homes to around 4,500 square feet each.
The new proposal scales back the size of the proposed homes to the limits of the underlying zoning.
The new proposal also includes a 22-foot setback from the edge of the bluff, which is greater than the city’s required 15-foot setback.
Certain exemptions from residential design standards are still sought by the application. The developer also asks for 10 years of vested rights, instead of the standard three years. Vested rights are the amount of time the development approval is valid.
The new proposal also would see the developer commission a hydrology study before a building permit could be issued. The study would examine potential impacts the development would have on springs coming out of the bluff that feed Hallam Lake.
In the city’s staff memo to commission members, historic preservation officer Amy Guthrie wrote that “the revised application includes several changes that are clear improvements ... [But] despite the positive changes, staff is unable to support the site plan that is submitted.”
Guthrie’s memo provides two development scenarios that might gain city staff support. One would see the lot directly behind the Given included in the sale to the city and preserved as open space. The allowable development on that lot could then be transferred to the other two lots, allowing those homes to reach 5,750 square feet. The other suggested scenario would have the home behind the Given built small enough not to affect any trees on the lot and transferring the unused development rights to the other homes on the site.