Aspen council offers initial input on Mountain House Lodge plan
April 10, 2014
Two Aspen City Council members said Monday that they have seen the end of the Mountain House Lodge coming for some time, citing the lodge's financial difficulties and eventual bankruptcy as warning signs.
MarMax Haytel LLC — the entity that took possession of the 26-room lodge in December — is aligned with HayMax Capital LLC, which is controlled by Michael and Aaron Brown, owners of the Hotel Aspen and Molly Gibson Lodge. In its application to the city, MarMax proposes to divide the 12,000-square-foot lot into two, 6,000-square-foot lots, with the intention of building two single-family homes.
"It's just a bummer," Councilman Adam Frisch said during the regular meeting Monday. "We've talked about a list of 12 endangered species, and this is one of them that I've known for a little bit that I (thought was) going to go away and turn into a residential component. Hopefully we can continue to work as fast as we can to make sure that any existing lodges we have remain existing lodges — if the owners can work that out. I don't hold any grudge against the applicant for what they're doing and wish them the best of luck."
Councilman Art Daily agreed that it's disappointing to see the 905 E. Hopkins Ave. lodge go away.
"I understand the applicant's proposal," Daily said. "I think it's consistent with our current land-use patterns in the area."
The proposal is scheduled for an official council vote on May 12, when a public hearing will be held.
Mayor Steve Skadron queried City Planner Justin Barker on any pre-existing agreements from the 1980s, when the property was rezoned for lodge preservation as part of an expansion.
"I'm curious to know if any permissions were granted to the applicant at that time that came with various conditions, like: Must it remain lodging inventory?" Skadron said.
Frisch asked if the bankruptcy agreement overrides any pre-existing restrictions. Barker is expected to have answers to both Skadron's and Frisch's questions at the May 12 second reading.
In other business
The council granted an extension to have USA Pro Challenge banners hung on Main Street and in the commercial core for three weeks this year, instead of the allowed two weeks for special events.
Aspen's Special Events Department initially requested to have them up for a month.
"Staff feels that with the magnitude of press coverage, national and statewide as well as the impact on the community, that the extended time period is warranted," a memorandum to the council stated.
Skadron said, "I happen to think four weeks is an interminable period, and the signs don't get seen after an initial period of time."
Director of Special Events and Marketing Nancy Leslie said it's important to build excitement around the event starting in August, as the event is scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19 in Aspen. Leslie said they will take the banners down shortly after the event passes through.
WE-cycle founder Mirte Mallory said Monday she is working to secure a private sponsor, so that a new $35,000 bike-share station can be built near City Hall.
In February, the council pledged to pay half the cost of the station, so long as Mallory lines up a sponsor to pay the other half. Mallory said she has had discussions with potential sponsors, and her take-away was that the station needs to be built near the prospective businesses in the interest of attracting daily traffic. On the other hand, the station is intended to incentivize city-employee use, so the station also needs to be close to City Hall.
"So I think it will come down to a compromise within the next couple weeks," Mallory said, adding that WE-cycle is aiming for a May 15 start date to its second season in Aspen.