Mark Hunt’s Base Lodge reinstated and in compliance
March 15, 2016
Developer Mark Hunt was granted reinstatement Monday from Aspen City Council for his Base Lodge project that now will include an underground parking garage and will conform to the city's land-use code.
In February 2015, the previous iteration, then known as Base1 Lodge, was given unanimous City Council approval and included such land-use code variations as off-site parking for 15 spaces instead of the required 24 in the lodge zone district.
Base Lodge will replace the current building, located on 730 E. Cooper Ave. across from City Market, that currently houses a Domino's pizzeria and Stoney Ridge Fridge eatery.
Hunt also is removing a height variation by eliminating the rooftop bathrooms, making the building's height 35 feet, 6 inches, as opposed to the previously approved variance of 41 feet. The zone district sets a cap at 38 feet.
Additionally, Hunt will mitigate for affordable housing with a 0.6 employee generation, compared with the 0.3 the council gave him last year.
Other changes include reducing the number of guest rooms from 44 to 40.
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It took a seemingly minor clerical error to prompt Hunt to revise the project. That mistake happened when a project representative failed to file an approved plan set with Community Development 90 days after he was given an extension to file one.
"It is staff's approval that, although this section is extremely punitive, the timing oversight of submitting an approved plan set voids the approval granted in the ordinance" that council approved in February 2015, wrote Community Development Director Jessica Garrow in a memo to council.
Hunt and his team had to bring the reinstated planned development into compliance with the land-use code, otherwise it would have gone to voters because of the passage of last year's Referendum 1, which forces variance-seeking commercial projects to obtain the electorate's approval. Those variances include height, mass, parking and affordable housing.
Hunt and his representatives — planner Mitch Haas, attorney Jody Edwards and consultant Dwayne Romero — argued that the clerical error now makes the project better for the community. They pleaded for reinstatement, saying not doing so would be a grave punishment for a minor oversight.
"Now we have an improved, a much improved lodge plan that eliminated all of the variation requests and conforms with the underlying zoning," Edwards said. "It is in the best interest of the city, it is the right thing to do, the fair thing and equitable thing to do."
Said Hunt: "I don't think the punishment fits the crime."
Members of City Council agreed, though Art Daily asked that the developers provide assurances that the 200-square-foot rooms aren't doubled in size in the future, making them less affordable than they are currently billed by Hunt — an average nightly rate of $200.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins also initially expressed reservations because of the community mood toward development, but reversed her position after other councilors noted the upside of the revised project.
The council also wants it noted on the record that the spaces in the parking garage aren't sold on the free market and that they are reserved strictly for users of Base Lodge.
Activist Ward Hauenstein, one of the leaders of the charge against Hunt's Base2 Lodge proposal, which voters defeated in November, called the revised Base Lodge "Christmas in March," or as Mayor Steve Skadron added, "Hanukkah in March."
"I thank the applicants for missing the deadline," Hauenstein said.
The council unanimously agreed to approve the reinstatement of Hunt's project and an ordinance supporting it, as well. The ordinance goes to a public hearing Monday.