After two official discussions and two public hearings, the only thing that seems certain about the Redstone Castle land-use application being weighed by Pitkin County commissioners is that it’s scheduled for another discussion and public hearing on June 27.
Commissioners spent three hours on the topic Wednesday. It’s a complex matter, involving the owner’s request to commissioners to pass an ordinance creating a special zoning district, another ordinance to rezone the castle property and a resolution approving a master plan for the site. Elected officials approved the two ordinances on first reading in May, but are now scrutinizing many details of the overall plans.
Owners Steve and April Carver, who purchased the historic castle for more than $2 million in 2016, say they need the county’s approvals to move forward with a redevelopment process that will make the 115-year-old castle and its associated buildings and parcels attractive to tourists again. Plans call for commercial lodging in the castle building and its 10 suites, as well as two units in the property’s Carriage House and one unit in the Hose House. They hope to increase the number of small and large special events and offer daily tours during specific times of year.
Plans also include construction of four cottages on land known as the Castle Parcel and four cabins on the Barn Parcel. The Carriage House sits on a third parcel bearing the same name. The Redstone Castle site encompasses 150 acres of land.
Commissioners on Wednesday sifted through a lengthy meeting packet and provided staff with direction for the next meeting. Their concerns, and those brought up by Redstone residents, varied but included the Carvers’ request for: 21 transferable development right certificates, or TDRs, which can be sold to other developers who use them to obtain other government concessions on other projects; the frequency of special events and the resulting noise and traffic; the sizes of the cottages and cabins and the related construction-activity envelopes; construction of a bridge over the Crystal River and its effect on the riparian habitat; unlimited tree removals; widening of a narrow trail to accommodate motorized vehicles; exemptions from energy-efficiency regulations; waiver of building permit, application and planning fees; credit for two employee-housing units; a perpetual vested-rights period for the master plan; and more.
Some of the issues that arose Wednesday were related to the resolution and the master plan, while others were more closely connected to the ordinances.
“We acknowledge that it’s a lot of information,” Pitkin County senior planner Mike Kraemer said in suggesting that the meeting continue to another date in late June. Commissioner Rachel Richards suggested that if the June 27 meeting isn’t enough time to resolve all the issues, a special meeting could be set for early July.
During public comments, Jody Edwards, an Aspen real estate attorney representing some of the castle’s neighbors, said redevelopment of the castle and the plans for increased activity on the property will have a great effect on the future quality of life in Redstone. He said it’s critically important to create a mechanism for counting cars that are driven to the site and for the county to review such information annually.
“Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to know whether the traffic analysis and representations made by the applicant are accurate,” Edwards said.
Edwards also expressed dismay with the sizes of the site-activity envelopes for both near-term and future construction. Based on documents presented to the county, one such envelope appeared to be in the range of 8 to 10 acres, he said.
“If this is 8 or 10 acres, that’s significantly larger than what you need for four cabins, even if they are 1,800-square-foot cabins,” Edwards said. “That’s not an activity envelope. That’s an unrestricted, ‘we do whatever the heck we want, whenever we want.’”
Bob McCormick, a resident of the castle’s former gatehouse, said there hasn’t been enough traffic analysis. If signage is placed near the Redstone Inn pointing the way to the castle, the area will be flooded with cars — not containing people who want to take tours, but those who just want to drive by the castle.
McCormick also said an alluvial fan on the property needs to be studied because the area could be subject to future debris flows. He added that giving the owner the right to remove 300-year-old trees doesn’t mesh with the county’s goal of historic preservation.
“This (development) is going to have a big effect on Redstone and the Crystal River Valley,” he said.
Redstone resident Peter Martin, however, voiced his approval, and said the county needs to do what it takes to make the castle “viable and suststainable.”
“I’m aware of the land-use issues, I just urge you to get this thing done,” Martin said. Others in the audience reserved the right to speak during the June 27 meeting.
Commissioner George Newman said more time is needed to study and debate topics related to the frequency of events, TDRs and vesting rights. “I think everyone can agree that this is an important property. It’s important to Redstone, and the viability of the community; it’s important for our county, the state and beyond.
“I think there’s a way we can perhaps not please everyone, but I think we can address a majority of these concerns,” he said.
Richards provided a list of concerns related to the master plan, including clarity about the number of “planned vs. allowable” events; the need for a more detailed parking management plan; and construction of a bridge, which could be built with assistance from the county, which is in the process of creating a bike trail in the area.
Commissioner Steve Child said a letter from a concerned resident suggested that the castle owners start out small with their event planning, a thought that “resonated” with him. In general, he said he wants to see the project move forward.