A split Aspen City Council signed off on a policy resolution for the town’s lodge-incentive program Monday, meaning the legislation will be up for an official vote later this summer.
The council voted, 3-2, for approval, with Mayor Steve Skadron and Councilwoman Ann Mullins dissenting.
There are three major items in the lodging package: four-story structures in limited circumstances; increased flexibility for free-market-residential components; and reductions in affordable-housing mitigation.
Skadron made it clear that he opposes four-story lodges.
“At this point, I do not believe I can get my hands around the fourth floor. I will not subscribe to that motion. I think it’s wrong,” Skadron said, adding that it speaks to the lessons learned from infill, a controversial package of zoning amendments passed in 2005. “I’m scared that a fourth floor might return something to this community that is totally unexpected.”
Donnie Lee, general manager of The Gant, said he appreciated city staff’s mindset in drawing up the program. He said planners have laid out specific criteria, which will only allow for four stories under compelling circumstances, a point council members have stressed in the past.
“What’s in front of you puts us on a path of controlled stability,” he said.
As proposed, planners would rework what’s allowed for free-market-residential components by using net liveable space of the lodge rather than average lodge-unit size to determine the footprint of the residential component. Long-range planner Jessica Garrow said the Planning Department is leaning toward 40 to 60 percent of net liveable, which, for example, would allow a 10,000 square-foot lodge to feature a free-market component of between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet.
Planning consultant Stan Clauson — who has represented Hotel Aspen and Molly Gibson Lodge owners Michael and Aaron Brown in the past — argued that the free-market component is imperative to incentivizing redevelopment projects and reversing Aspen’s declining bed base. He added that requiring those units to be in the rental pool detracts from the their value. He also said the council should consider height limits of 36 feet, not 32 feet, in the lodge-preservation overlay zone district, in which Hotel Aspen sits.
Speaking after Clauson, Michael Brown said he’s not sure redevelopment at Hotel Aspen — which was approved in March after a number of concessions on the size of three free-market units — is possible “because it doesn’t make economic sense.”
“My inclination was that we needed more in order to revitalize the lodge,” Brown said.
Proposed changes also would result in an estimated 66 percent reduction in affordable-housing mitigation for participating lodges. In order to offset the reduction, the city is considering the option of reworking the budget and covering some of the expense.