Council still divided on the Hotel Aspen
March 11, 2014
The proposal to redevelop Hotel Aspen received a one-week continuance from the Aspen City Council on Monday, as members of the board remained divided over the project.
Mayor Steve Skadron and Councilman Art Daily voted "no" on approval of the project, while councilmen Dwayne Romero and Adam Frisch voted "yes." Councilwoman Ann Mullins has recused herself because she previously reviewed it as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission. Following the failed action, a continuance was scheduled for Monday, with Frisch voicing his desire for further discussion.
In Hotel Aspen's most recent plan, which was emailed to city staff at noon Monday, the applicant reduced the size of one of the three free-market residential units proposed for the expansion. By removing sub-grade parking, the most westward unit was lowered from three stories to two. A block east, there is an affordable-housing structure that stands at 36 feet. On the Hotel Aspen lot, the two most eastward free-market structures proposed would stand at 35 feet 6 inches, while the third structure would be 33 feet. A block east, there is a 31-foot Victorian. In the proposal, the number of lodging units would increase from 45 to 54, with an average unit size of 300 square feet.
On a lot that allows 27,000 square feet of maximum cumulative floor area, the applicant requested about 35,700 square feet. If the proposal is granted special review, it will boost the allowable space to 33,750 square feet.
During the nearly three-hour discussion, Romero applauded the work on the most westward unit, while Daily said the project is still out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. Daily added that if the two other free-market structures were closer to the size of the westward structure, he could support the proposal. Frisch likened Daily's idea to having three miner shacks on Main Street, a comment Skadron said was "quite aggressive."
Co-owner Aaron Brown, who appeared with his business partner and brother Michael, said they won't be back for the continuance, though similar statements have been made in the past. At the end of the meeting, Brown representative Stan Clauson asked if all four council members will be present for Monday's continuance, to which the board answered "yes."
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Clauson argued that Aspen needs to realize that the applicant is not proposing to build a Wal-Mart or a 6- to 7-story structure like ones seen in Vail. He said the two- and three-story structures proposed are in line with the surrounding West End neighborhood. He brought up Lift 1A, where a townhome project was approved after years of lodge-development pursuit.
During the public-comment portion of the meeting, Junee Kirk, a 47-year Aspen resident, described the Hotel Aspen project as a short-term gain at the expense of small-town character.
"We're giving up all of this for nine hot beds?" she asked the council. "Are we kidding?"
Bert Myrin, a Planning and Zoning Committee member, said the applicant is asking for well beyond what is allowed even in special review. He also said he was disgusted with the process, saying city staff should have been allowed more than five hours to review the project before it went to the council. Earlier in the meeting, Clauson said a tight time frame should have been expected, given the two-week turnaround.
Real estate broker Lex Tarumianz was one of three who spoke in favor of the proposal during the public-comment portion. He said that younger, working families in Aspen need a balanced community, which blends old Aspen with future development. He regarded the proposal as "a tasteful project," which will improve Aspen's visitor experience.
Skadron disagreed, saying the hotel tradeoff is not worth the requested variances.
"I think the lack of a program and the precedent established by this application — and more specifically the requested variances — could make it difficult in the future to maintain and preserve the mass and scale of our neighborhoods," he said.