The embattled Nugget Gallery would be allowed to remain in its location without paying a six-figure affordable housing fee under a new city policy Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said he will propose, which would allow business to exist in common areas without paying mitigation fees as long as they are “local serving.”
The Nugget Gallery has been operating for two years under a temporary business permit in an oddly shaped office building hallway off the Hyman Avenue mall. For owner Ross Kribbs to be able to make his gallery a permanent space under existing rules, he would have to pay around $100,000 to convert what is now considered common area into “net leasable” commercial space. Aspen City Council recently renewed Kribbs’ temporary permit until July, but the city’s planning office is recommending that no further extensions be granted.
Ireland said he will propose a policy that would allow small local businesses to set up shop with the blessing of a building owner in Aspen common areas — such as hallways, foyers and atriums — without having to pay affordable housing and other fees, so long as they can qualify as “local serving.”
This has been a tricky concept to define over the years, as the city in the past has attempted to craft incentives for such businesses. It always comes down to a difficult decision of who’s in and who’s out, and whether you are local enough, planning director Chris Bendon said.
Ireland said his definition, for the purposes of the hallway business zoning, would revolve around the business being locally owned and selling locally made products.
He said he came up with the idea because he was looking for a way to “keep guys like Ross in business.”
Kribbs’ Nugget Gallery, which is in the building that also is home to Finbarr’s pub and an Aspen/Snowmass Sotheby’s real estate office, sells his own photographs and works by other local artists. He said he is fine with a provision that he maintain an inventory of only locally made art.
“Good news for sure,” is how he described Ireland’s proposal.
In previous discussions about making Kribbs’ situation permanent, without him having to pay mitigation, the city expressed concern about fairness to other art galleries in spaces that have paid the fees. Kribbs maintains that because he sells only local art and is in a common area — the hallway is used during the day by building occupants, and he is open only in the evening — he is different.
He said the mayor’s policy could unlock possibilities for other locals to do something they are passionate about in the handful of spaces in town where a common-area business might make sense.
Ireland said he will write up his policy proposal in a memo and present it to council in an upcoming work session. If at least two other council members are in support, he would ask city staff to draft a rezoning ordinance that would go first to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration, and then back to City Council for approval.