Aspen Boomerang lodge proposal is back to ‘square one’
August 23, 2014
After facing denial at a recent Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, representatives looking to redevelop the Boomerang Lodge are now weighing options under the city's recently passed lodge-incentive program, which is being challenged by a potential referendum.
At an Aug. 12 meeting, which ended in a continuance, city planner Sara Adams recommended denial because the 41,300-square-foot project on West Hopkins Avenue consists of too much free-market-residential space and not enough lodging.
With 2006 approvals in hand, Boomerang representatives James DeFrancia and Steve Stunda have contended that their latest proposal is an enhancement of what they already have a right to build, regarding the current process as "frustrating."
Their latest proposal calls for 37 percent lodging and 54 percent free-market, with 54 lodge units and 14 free-market units. Approvals from 2006 call for 66 percent lodging and 30 percent free-market, with 47 lodge units and five free-market. The latest iteration is a 3,600-square-foot step down in overall floor area and a 3-foot reduction in height for the lodging component.
In response to staff concerns in July, the applicant committed eight of its 14 free-market units to the rental pool for six months out of the year, making it part of the condominium-owner agreement.
Still, planners remain concerned that the free-market/lodging ratio is out of scale.
DeFrancia said they will wait and see what happens with the new lodge-incentive program, which would allow four-story lodges near Aspen Mountain and larger free-market residences, among other incentives for developers. The future of the program is uncertain because it's facing a petition from Aspen attorneys Cavanaugh O'Leary and Bert Myrin, who are seeking a public vote on the issue. They need 641 signatures by Sept. 5 to get the question on November's ballot.
Stunda said it's a shame if the program doesn't hold up, "but I have comfort in knowing we have 2006 approvals."
"We're kind of back at square one," DeFrancia said, adding that the newest proposal is in line with recent comments from officials regarding the lodge-incentive program.
"Everything says we need economy lodging," DeFrancia said, pointing out that the lodge units average 250 square feet. "We (also) need new, rentable condos. Everything says that, and that's exactly what we're trying to bring to the table."
In a memorandum, city staff contends that the height reduction only shrinks the lodge units, making for an uncomfortable floor-to-ceiling height of 7 feet, 6 inches. The recommendation is for a height reduction across the entire project, not just the lodge component.
Staff also recommends that the project contain two- and three-story elements, with a maximum height of 28 to 32 feet, which is similar to the lodge-zone district.
"Staff is supportive of a lodge on the historic Boomerang site and would like to see restoration of the lodge," the memo states. "However, staff does not support the proposed mass and scale considering the ratio of uses."
A casualty of the Great Recession, the Boomerang has sat dormant since 2007, when part of the building was demolished to make way for a redevelopment project approved a year earlier. The project remained stuck until 2011, when the Aspen City Council approved plans to build an affordable-housing complex at the site. But the 40-unit project was halted when a group of neighbors filed a lawsuit seeking reversal on the council's decision. Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols ruled against the neighbors, and by early 2014, the two parties had come to an agreement to end litigation.