County: ‘Home’ is illegal lodge | AspenTimes.com

County: ‘Home’ is illegal lodge

A St. Louis company has been ordered by Pitkin County to stop using an 8,000-square-foot, six-bedroom luxury home on the banks of the Roaring Fork River as a commercial lodge.

County zoning officer Joanna Schaffner sent a “final notice of violation” last week to the manager of the Coldstream Trout Lodge at 1900 Lower River Road.

In her letter, Schaffner said it is a violation of the county land-use code to use the building for short-term rentals and special events when it was approved as a single-family home.

The home, which rents for $3,000 per night, is owned by a subsidiary of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, a St. Louis firm that specializes in bringing buyers and sellers together in e-commerce. The head of the company, Robert Chapman, has a home in the Owl Creek Valley.

Self-incriminating evidence

The Coldstream Trout Lodge was completed in 1996. The sprawling log structure is highly visible from Lower River Road. The Roaring Fork River runs in its back yard.

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The owners landed in hot water with the county due to what appears to be self-incriminating evidence. The management sent glossy brochures, cover letters and rate sheets to real estate agents in Aspen earlier this winter advertising that the unit was for rent.

“I had my suspicions all along,” Schaffner said. “The mailing kind of confirmed my suspicions.”

County officials have maintained for a long time that some of the large “single-family homes” being built around Aspen are actually corporate retreats that are rented out. They want to prohibit commercial operations, which generate a lot more activity, from residential neighborhoods. Commercial structures must also meet different building code criteria.

County officials in the late 1980s created a house-size cap partially to limit the potential of using homes as lodges. The effort was considered a flop because the building industry lobbied hard and the commissioners went with a 15,000-square-foot limit.

Lodge makes intent clear

The Coldstream Trout Lodge hasn’t been as discreet about its intentions as other property owners.

A copy of the lodge’s rate sheet says the lodge is rented out for $3,000 per night for a minimum of three-night stays. During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays the “home” is rented out for $4,000 a night with a 10-night minimum.

It’s available for $40,000 per month and $10,000 for special occasions.

The lodge’s Web site says the property manager is available to pick up guests at the airport. Services include daily cleaning by maids, personal shoppers, laundry and cooking by a chef. “The lodge is also offered with full fishing equipment, bicycles and lots of family board games,” the Web site said.

A cover letter sent by the lodge operator to the real estate agents says the lodge has proven to be a “favorite hideaway for families, executives, and anyone seeking casual comfort in luxurious surroundings.”

Perception problem?

Judith Gettinger, property manager of the lodge, said she consulted with Schaffner after receiving the notice of violation and plans to take steps to get into compliance. Those steps will be submitted to the county in writing. She wouldn’t disclose the possible remedies.

Despite the evidence that supports the theory that Coldstream Trout Lodge is rented out short-term, Gettinger said there is a “perception” it’s being used for something other than intended. She said when it isn’t being used by the owner, it’s occasionally rented out ” like numerous other homes in the Aspen area.

Pitkin County regulations are fuzzy on what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to rentals. Schaffner wouldn’t elaborate on what constitutes a short-term rental or how long a family needs to rent for it to be considered a valid use.

Schaffner’s letter to Gettinger says the property owners were warned in 2001 and 2002 that the uses the lodge was advertising weren’t permitted. “Therefore, this is your final notice,” Schaffner wrote. “If commercial use of this site continues, the matter will be referred to the County Attorney’s office for further enforcement action.”

Schaffner said the potential penalties vary depending on the case.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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