‘Lodge’ to stop commercial use | AspenTimes.com

‘Lodge’ to stop commercial use

The owners of a luxury home that Pitkin County officials accused of illegally operating as a commercial lodge have apologized for violating the land-use code and vowed to come into compliance.

The owners of the Coldstream Trout Lodge at 1900 Lower River Road said in a letter to the county that they want to be regarded as “good citizens” who comply with county requirements.

The 8,000-square-foot structure is a lodge in name only. It was actually approved as a single-family home. Commercial uses are prohibited.

County zoning officer Joanna Schaffner issued a “final notice of violation” Feb. 2 when she discovered compelling evidence that the home was being rented out for special events and on a short-term basis.

The lodge manager sent a rate card and brochure to several real estate agents in Aspen earlier this winter that showed the facility was available for $3,000 per night for three-night minimums and $10,000 for special occasions like weddings.

The rate card was forwarded to Schaffner. She said she had previously suspected the lodge was being rented in ways that violated the code, but previously had no proof. The lodge owners were warned about their renting practices in 2001 and 2002, according to Schaffner.

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Coldstream Trout Lodge is owned by a subsidiary of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, a St. Louis firm that specializes in e-commerce and various other interests. The head of the company is Robert Chapman, who also owns a home in Owl Creek Valley.

“The owners have indicated to me that they did not intend to undertake any activities in contravention to the Pitkin County Land Use Code,” the letter from lawyer Stan Clauson to Schaffner said. “They regret that the recently mailed brochure offered the building as available in ways that violated the code.”

The letter said the owners’ desire to be good citizens of Pitkin County was recently demonstrated.

“They recently deeded a substantial portion of their property between Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River to Pitkin County as open space, which should indicate their dedication and support of community values,” Clauson wrote.

No other information was available Friday on that open space dedication.

The letter declared that the “preponderant use” of Coldstream Trout Lodge is as a private home for the owners. However, their understanding is that the home can also be rented out occasionally to other families, according to Clauson.

Schaffner said that interpretation is correct. That’s what makes regulation of large homes so difficult. The county doesn’t check to see who is renting homes or for how long. Unless a property does something like mail rate cards, it’s difficult to catch illegal rents.

Critics have contended for years that some mini-mansions around Aspen are really corporate retreats or commercial ventures. It’s an issue, some past and present county officials insist, because commercial ventures create impacts like additional traffic in residential neighborhoods. Different building code requirements also exist for commercial and residential structures.

Schaffner said the letter from Coldstream Trout Lodge vowing to go into compliance rectifies the situation. If she becomes aware of other violations the issue will be turned over to the county attorney’s office, she said.

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

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