ASPEN - Pitkin County's long-standing policy denying the use of helicopters for special events will be tested when county commissioners take up the events permit for the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race.
A request to use a helicopter to film pro bike racers on the leg that brings the tour into Aspen in August will be but one of the issues for commissioners to consider, according to Mike Kraemer, planner with the county's Community Development Department.
The permit application, which Kraemer anticipates receiving soon, is scheduled for a March 23 discussion. Also expected to attend are representatives of Medalist Sports, the management company that is organizing the inaugural bike tour, plus city of Aspen officials, the county sheriff and representatives of the Aspen Skiing Co., which is the city's partner in organizing the event locally.
The county regularly denies requests to use helicopters in commercial shoots, which are considered special events under the county's permit process, Kraemer said.
It's also a county policy not to close roads for bike events, but the closure of Highway 82 over Independence Pass isn't the county's call, he said. Tour organizers have already indicated that the Colorado Department of Transportation has agreed to close the state highway over the pass for four to six hours during the event, Kraemer told commissioners on Tuesday.
However, other biking events that have been contemplated in conjunction with the tour's arrival could bump up against the county's road closure policy.
Kraemer said he also anticipates a request for the donation of staffing from the county sheriff's office and possibly the Public Works crew to help manage the event. The county has already rejected a city request for financial help related to the bike race, he noted.
The City Council this week approved a $190,000 contract with Classic Bicycle Racing LLC to cover some local costs associated with hosting the event; the Aspen Chamber Resort Association will pay $50,000 of that sum.
Because the city is further along in its commitments, the county faces the prospect of playing the "spoiler" if it doesn't go along with whatever is requested for the Quiznos event, complained Commissioner Michael Owsley.
Commissioner Rob Ittner, an Aspen restaurant owner, said he wholeheartedly supports bringing the race to town, but questioned the event's benefit on the local economy, since 700 lodging rooms must be provided for the event over two nights, and 800 parking spaces will be closed off in the vicinity of the finish line.
"When you're talking about that many parking spaces, you might as well clear the town out," Hatfield said.
The Quiznos Bike Challenge will be held Aug. 22-28. Competitors will ride from Gunnison to Aspen, over Cottonwood and Independence passes, on Aug. 24.