Discussion on building heights, affordable-housing requirements and free-market residential units highlighted Tuesday’s Aspen City Council work session, as the city continues to develop its lodging-incentive program.
Concerning affordable housing, city staff proposes to lower requirements for participants in the lodging-incentive program. Currently, the construction of an 11-unit lodge requires mitigation for 3.96 full-time-equivalent employees. As proposed in the new program, an eligible 11-unit lodge would require 1.75 full-time-equivalent employees, essentially half the current requirement. The requirement for a 26-unit lodge would decrease from 9.36 to 3.5 full-time equivalents.
“This is one of the more major changes,” long-range planner Jessica Garrow said, adding that if the approach feels too aggressive for the council, the numbers can be refined.
Councilman Adam Frisch said, “These numbers work for me to start, but I appreciate that others might say, ‘This is too big of a leap.’”
Mayor Steve Skadron directed staff to leave the numbers unaltered, as the council awaits public discussion, which begins Tuesday during a work session on policy resolution. Community Development Director Chris Bendon said that meeting could be the first of many public hearings before the program is ready for first and second readings.
City staff also proposes height increases in the residential multi-family zone and the lodge-zone district. In the lodge district, staff proposes that current limits stay at 28 to 40 feet for two- and three-story buildings but that a fourth story be allowed in certain circumstances. In March, the majority of the council gave cautious support for height variation in limited circumstances.
Garrow said staff is not proposing to set any specific cap for the four-story structures because, based on public and council feedback, flexibility is needed.
“A blanket cap of 46 feet or 48 feet or 52 feet doesn’t make sense in all circumstances,” Garrow said.
Bendon added that based on council input from March, the concern is that if there is a stated height, developers will design to that height, as opposed to the surrounding context and views.
Also at the meeting in March, Frisch said that though he’s not trying to stir things up, he can think of a few specific locations where a four-story structure could work: near the Little Nell, the existing Sky Hotel structure and the City Market parking lot. Council member Art Daily agreed that there is potential.
“I don’t see 30 different buildings in town 10 years from now having a fourth floor,” Frisch said. “I think there’s only a couple places left to build a big lodge, as is.”
On Tuesday, council consensus was to remain open to the possibility of four-story structures under compelling and limited circumstances.
Staff also proposes language that would give greater allowance for free-market residential space in certain development applications. Rather than tying free-market residential floor area to lodge-unit size, lodge net livable area would be compared to free-market residential net livable area so it’s more of an apples-to-apples comparison, according to a memorandum to the council.
As described by Bendon, 10,000 square feet of lodging rooms at a 25 percent allowance would allow for 2,500 square feet of free-market residential. Staff has recommended that the percentage be more in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 percent, meaning a 10,000-square-foot lodge would allow for 4,000 or 5,000 square feet of free-market residential.
“The question is, ‘How do we allow as little free-market as possible and still get lodge people to dance with us?’” Frisch said.