The Hotel Aspen wins height-limited approval
March 19, 2014
After conceding to 25-foot height limits for free-market residential units planned in its redevelopment application, Hotel Aspen won, 3-1, Aspen City Council approval Monday during a special meeting.
Councilmen Art Daily, Adam Frisch and Dwayne Romero voted in support of the application, while Mayor Steve Skadron voted "no." Councilwoman Ann Mullins recused herself having previously reviewed the application as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission.
A week before, Hotel Aspen had proposed to build two free-market residential units at 35 feet 6 inches and one at 33 feet. In addition to meeting the 25-foot height limit, the total size of the three units will be capped at 8,400 square feet. The maximum cumulative floor area will be capped at 35,050 square feet, which is about 8,000 square feet more than what is allowed. The new lodge will up the number of hotel rooms from 45 to 54.
The council also voted against allowing $91,000 in fee waivers requested in the application, with Romero as the lone member in support.
At the start of the meeting, City Planner Sara Adams presented the council with an option that would have allowed the most eastward residential unit to remain at 35 feet, while the middle unit would have been reduced to 25 feet at the front half of the building and 31 feet in the rear. Representing the applicant, Stan Clauson said he would be amenable to that suggestion, but the council remained in a 2-2 standoff, with Romero and Frisch in support and Skadron and Daily against.
After a five-minute huddle with owner Michael Brown and his architect, Clauson returned to the council, saying Hotel Aspen would accept the suggestion — which Daily offered a week prior — to lower all three free-market units to two stories.
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"We're not certain that it will work financially, but we would try to make it work and accept that as a way of moving this forward," Clauson said.
Retired tax attorney Maurice Emmer applauded Skadron and Daily for their decision to deny the application up to this point, saying each of the applicant's previous concessions brought the project closer to what is appropriate for the community.
"Sometimes it takes saying no to get to yes, and I would encourage you to do more of it," Emmer said. "Because when you have a code and you have laws and it's clear to a developer what they have to comply with, maybe they'll come in with proposals that comply."
Frisch said he hopes three full-time-resident families will move into the free-market units and enroll their children at the Yellow Brick preschool. He added that he wants Aspen to remain a small town, while realizing that it also needs to be progressive.
As the dissenting vote, Skadron said the precedent the application sets concerns him, as it "does not meet an appropriate balance" between lodge incentivization and small-town preservation. Earlier in the meeting, he said Hotel Aspen's plan provides more "cold beds" in free-market residential units than it does "hot beds" in lodging inventory.
Clauson argued that Hotel Aspen is not simply adding nine hot beds but redeveloping the entire lodge to provide updated and relevant inventory in today's market. Romero supported that idea, citing a passage in the Aspen Area Community Plan that says the town needs to minimize the loss of current inventory.
With council approval, the application now will be subject to growth-management and design review by the Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions. Both reviews will include opportunity for public comment.