Retail use, lodges back on city’s plate | AspenTimes.com

Retail use, lodges back on city’s plate

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Curtailing use of prime retail space by offices and facilitating the redevelopment of Aspen’s aging lodges ” two pieces of the city’s failed infill legislation ” will be on the City Council’s plate Tuesday.

After eight months of debate and review last year, the council let the sweeping package of zoning amendments known as “infill” die in October, promising to dissect the proposals individually before adopting or rejecting changes to the city’s various zoning districts.

Council members agreed the proposed changes in the lodging district should be a priority. Meanwhile, the controversial prohibition of offices on the ground floor in the commercial core ” another element of infill ” is back at the forefront of council debate after a pair of retail consultants recommended the move last month.

Both topics are before the council at its work session tomorrow. City staffers are seeking direction on what zoning amendments the council wants to see brought forward.

The prohibition on office uses in some part of the downtown appears to have support from at least two council members ” Rachel Richards and Torre. A proliferation of timeshare sales offices in former retail spaces brought the issue to a head two summers ago, but the council ultimately refused to zone them out of the core.

The retail consultants recommended “grandfathering in” existing uses ” letting them stay ” but suggested that regulations to prevent the further spread of offices into a “retail only” zone would be appropriate.

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“My core question is, do they want to proceed with this in some way,” said Chris Bendon, the city’s long-range planner.

Bendon also wants to know how, and if, the council wants to amend the regulations that apply to lodges, a number of which are aging and in need of redevelopment to remain competitive.

Tearing down a lodge and replacing it with a single-family home or a duplex remains an option, though the proposed infill legislation would have eliminated that possibility.

“If you can do a ski-in, ski-out house at the base of the mountain, it’s a no-brainer,” Bendon said. But such a conversion does little for the town’s economy or its vibrancy, he added.

The council needs to address incentives for lodge owners to redevelop their properties as lodges if that’s its goal, Bendon said.

Aspen has already eased the path toward lodge improvements for properties in its Lodge Preservation zone. A lodge in LP, for example, can tear down and rebuild the same square footage without triggering a host of requirements like additional parking and worker housing.

“We’re realizing that’s huge,” Bendon said.

Not all lodges, however, are in the LP zone. The infill proposals, which embraced incentives for lodge redevelopment, would have applied to all lodges.

The city staff has recommended the council prohibit single-family homes in the lodge zone and consider amendments to its regulations to help lodges remain viable enterprises.

Tuesday’s discussion is scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. in the City Council chambers.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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