The writing of Aspen’s lodging ordinance and its incentives will begin taking shape today, as the Aspen City Council will give input on the city’s height limitations for lodges, floor-area limitations and fee-mitigation waivers.
The incentive program will serve as the framework for increasing and upgrading Aspen’s short-term bed base, which has been identified as one of the city’s top 10 goals.
In a memorandum from city planners, the council is asked for initial feedback on fee reductions and mitigation waivers. Incentives for lodge owners could involve building and planning fees, stormwater fees and capital improvements in the right-of-way. Official options will be presented at an April 1 work session, but in the meantime, the council is given three response options, though council members are free to elaborate: “No way, man,” “maybe, kinda-sorta” and “yeah, like totally.”
The memo asks the council if the city should increase the number of free-market residential unit allotments, which currently is capped at 18 and equates to a 0.5 percent growth rate for Aspen’s lodging industry. The council also is asked if it wants to alter the yearly cap on lodging projects.
“As part of the lodging outreach,” the memo states, “staff has continued to hear that a free-market residential component is an important economic engine enabling lodge upgrades and redevelopment.”
The council is asked if it wants to adjust height limits for lodges. The memo states that the city could allow developers to build four-story structures, in certain circumstances: south of Durant Avenue; in the lodge and ski base zone districts; if it is limited to 50 percent of the building footprint; through planned development review or special review processes; if it has a 30-foot setback from the north property line; with some additional mitigation requirements or additional open space/pedestrian amenity requirements; if public access is granted to any rooftop amenities; or through the landing of transferable development rights. The council is asked to consider each one of these areas.
Staff also asks if the council would like to alter unit-size limits for lodges, free-market residential units and vacation rental units.
“Unit sizes are a limiting factor on the free-market residential product that can be part of a lodge development,” the memo states.
For free-market residential units, options include: keep unit size caps for free-market residential, and limit them to 1,500 square feet, while allowing an increase to 2,500 square feet with the landing of a transferable development rights; or remove the unit size cap for free-market residential if it is part of a lodge and/or vacation rental unit project.
Options for vacation rental units include: Limit vacation rental unit sizes to 1,000 square feet, while allowing an increase to 1,500 square feet through special review. Allow an additional 500 square feet (to 2,000 square feet total) through special review and landing a transferable development rights; or limit vacation rental unit sizes to 1,250 square feet, while allowing an increase to 1,750 square feet through special review. Allow an additional 500 square feet (to 2,250 square feet total) through special review and landing a transferable development rights.
According to the memo, one of the major hurdles to condominium upgrades is the multi-family replacement program. Currently, if a residential unit has ever housed a local, working resident, it cannot be demolished or combined with another unit without providing mitigation in the form of built units on the project site. This location requirement has prevented many multi-family complexes from redeveloping, according to the memo, because the density required exceeds what is allowed under zoning, or it is deemed as unworkable by the complex.
Staff will present the council with two options to address that issue: exempt units participating in the incentive program and agreeing to be in the short-term rental pool; or require mitigation only for any unit rented to a local working resident in the past 10 years.
There’s also an option presented to address the location requirements: allow more flexible mitigation options (on-site, off-site, through Affordable Housing Certificates or cash-in-lieu payments).