Art museum opponent downplays likelihood of recall

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenOctober 1, 2010
The threat of a potential recall of Aspen City Council may be over as quickly as it began.

Longtime local Richie Cohen told Real Aspen on Friday “there is no recall effort and there hasn't been one,” just days after telling Aspen Public Radio that he was considering a recall and that “it could happen.”
A virtual view of the new museum's roof deck.

Cohen, who is part of a group opposed to the process that approved a new 30,000-square-foot art museum at the site of the current Wienerstube, said he phoned the city clerk this week and inquired about the recall process. But, he said, the conversation with the clerk was “purely informative.” Cohen said the city clerk then sent him a copy of the statute pertaining to the recall process and a petition.

“I called and asked about the procedure for a recall. I didn't say we were considering one,” he said. “I said it's a possibility, but nothing has been done. A recall is very, very time consuming. Frankly it takes more energy than I'm willing to spend on it. Conversely, it does remain an action that could be taken.”

Aspen City Council approved a lawsuit settlement with 633 Spring Street II LLC after the developer sued the city for denying a near 50,000-square-foot proposal for the Wienerstube site in 2008. As part of a settlement with the plaintiff, the city council approved a smaller project that features a new art museum.
Richie Cohen

Cohen and other critics of the lawsuit settlement say the public should vote on whether a new art museum building should be built in the downtown core, or the project should be put through the same developmental reviews required of most other projects.

City Council, which approved the lawsuit settlement 4-1 with only Steve Skadron opposing, hasn't backed down on its approval with the exception of Torre who endorsed a public vote.

Proponents of the project, including the Aspen Skiing Co., say the museum, designed by accomplished Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, will be an extraordinary community asset.

Cohen said he participated in the recall of a particularly “autocratic” city council in Aspen in the early 1990s. Only one councilman, Steve Crocket, was ousted while the others were retained. Cohen said “it was very effective because the entire tone on the council changed after that.” But he said he isn't pursuing the same course of action against this council. He just wants council to rethink its decision.
Another view of the new museum.

Correcting comments Mayor Mick Ireland made to Real Aspen, Cohen said his office is across the street from the Wienerstube, but not in Marty Flug's building. He is in the L'Hostaria building. He also said the mayor mischaracterized their prior conversations. “The meeting where he invited several opponents was really an attempt to get us to agree with the museum and the mayor. And it wound up with them telling us there is an approval and if we're unhappy about it, then we should sue them.”

Cohen said he and other opponents to the project met with an attorney but they decided not to file a lawsuit. Instead, he said, they have turned in about 1,400 signatures asking city council to reconsider its decision.

But he isn't optimistic that will happen.

“I expect a demolition permit will be pulled very quickly,” Cohen said.

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