Ski lodges to council: ‘Help us’
February 19, 2004
Giving Aspen’s ski lodges more room to make the kinds of changes that will keep them viable was a no-brainer for the Aspen City Council this week, but members were sharply divided on one option for lodge properties: selling out for residential development.
Single-family homes and duplexes aren’t what the city wants to see in its lodging district, but it’s currently an option for many lodges, and some council members are loath to strip longtime family lodge operators of their right to go that route.
After a lengthy discussion Tuesday, city staffers were directed to explore zoning code amendments that ease regulations for lodge redevelopment and allow mixed uses on lodge properties. The ability to build free-market condos, fractional suites or some mixture of uses may help lodge owners retain a component of traditional lodge rooms rented by the night, several small-lodge owners told the council.
“I think we’d all like to preserve our small lodges … but it’s getting tougher and tougher and tougher to figure out how to stay here,” said Stan Hajenga, a partner in the Mountain Chalet. “Help us.”
The Limelite Lodge has explored a “major rebirth” of its accommodations and concluded it can’t feasibly build a new lodge that offers strictly nightly room rentals, said owner Dale Paas. Each lodge’s challenges and needs are different ” all of them need to be accommodated if the city doesn’t want them to go away, he said.
But going away was the option that garnered the most impassioned debate.
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The small Snow Queen Lodge has operated out of a historic Victorian home for more than 30 years. If its owners want to sell it as a home someday, they should be able to do so, argued owner Norma Dolle, who runs the lodge with her son.
The Boomerang Lodge began with a cabin that was owner Charlie Paterson’s home, noted his wife, Fonda.
“I’d like to know at what point we lost our right to be a home,” she said.
Some of Aspen’s lodge owners were the resort’s ski-era “pioneers” ” they shouldn’t be punished with zoning that prevents use of their properties for anything else, Fonda added.
“It also may be that some lodges, their time has passed and it’s time to make them something else,” Paas said.
Councilwoman Rachel Richards led the push to take conversion to single-family homes and duplexes out of the picture in the lodge district in conjunction with an easing of the rules for lodge redevelopment.
“If that’s not what we want to do, why leave it in there?” she said.
During the city’s review of the Dancing Bear Lodge, which ultimately won approval last year after the hotel’s height was reduced, the threat of townhomes as the backup option for the property was in the back of everyone’s mind, Richards said.
“Everybody at this table felt that pressure,” she said.
“I’m in Rachel’s camp,” agreed Councilman Terry Paulson. “I want to get rid of this residential thing.”
But Mayor Helen Klanderud and Councilman Tim Semrau were adamantly opposed to forcing lodges to remain lodges with no fallback option to residential use.
“It condemns people to being in the lodging business forever, whether they want to or not,” Klanderud said.
“To condemn them to forever operating a lodge that isn’t feasible perhaps, is grossly unfair,” Semrau agreed.
Councilman Torre said he favored exploring multi-use developments to help lodges, but didn’t take a firm stand on the residential conversion issue.
“We’ll continue to explore the appropriateness of that use in the lodge district,” concluded Chris Bendon, the city’s long-range planner.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com]