A full plate for City Council
ASPEN With only a few hours of experience in the public review process, the newly-elected Aspen City Council members certainly will have their work cut out for them Monday evening.And how the council eventually votes on a few development proposals could change the makeup of Aspen for decades to come.The Aspen City Council will be confronted with determining the fate of the Cooper Street Pier building, as well as a large hotel at the base of Lift 1A on Aspen Mountain and its related affordable project at the bottom of Smuggler Mountain. Opposition and support from residents is anticipated for all three projects.Re-energizing Ajax’s west side?Anticipating that the project would be shot down, Centurion Partners, the developers of the proposed 80-room, 175-square-foot hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain, opted on May 14 to delay their review until a new City Council was elected. They successfully requested that the review be continued to June 25 when new council members would be in office. The project has been scrutinized for several years and it appears it will take even longer. City staff said in a memo that they feel it is important to start fresh and begin the final review process again so the new City Council can fully understand the proposal.Developers on May 14 did make the proposal a bit sweeter by offering to make their proposed hotel rooms deed-restricted for 35 years, meaning the rooms couldn’t be converted into fractional ownership units or condos.The project also includes 21 fractional lodging units, nearly 4,000 square feet of meeting space and 54 affordable-housing units for 112 people. There would be 16 on-site employee housing units and a combined 37 off-site units, including 28 at the yet-to-be-developed Smuggler Racquet Club and nine at the Aspen Business Center. Developers also have offered a new high-speed chairlift to replace the old Lift 1A, as well as a snowmelt system on South Aspen Street and sidewalks from the new lift to Durant Avenue.John Sarpa, a principal at Centurion, said the project is driven by market forces. As a result, the four whole-ownership units, which vary in size between 3,400 and 3,800 square feet, are necessary for the development to be economically feasible.Centurion Partners already has approval to construct 14 townhomes and 17 affordable housing units on 2.4 acres, where the Mine Dumps apartments currently sit. If the council denies the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, Centurion will go ahead with 84,000 square feet of residential development.Last call for Cooper Street Pier?The plan is to tear down the decades-old Cooper Street Pier bar and replace it with a four-story mixed-use building with commercial space in the basement and on the first and second floors, amounting to 3,827 square feet. There’s also one free-market residence on the third and fourth floors.City staff recommended in its memo to the council to approve the project because it’s consistent with the goals of the Aspen Area Community Plan in providing a mixed-use building that is located in an infill area. Last chance to save Smuggler?The City Council is being asked to contribute $275,000 toward the purchase of a 4-acre parcel, also known as the Last Chance Claim, located next to the observation deck on Smuggler Mountain. A previous City Council on May 22 had approved $400,000 toward the purchase because the landowners had proposed a $600,000 price tag. Then the price went up in a public auction with a minimum bid of $750,000 as advised by the owner of the property, Ms. Kephart. Anticipating having to pay $800,000 for the land, the City Council and Pitkin County were willing to buck up $400,000 each. However, Kephart apparently will settle for $550,000.The immediacy of the purchase is mostly because the owner of a parcel that adjoins Last Chance also wants to buy Kephart’s four acres. City staff is concerned that the development of a 1,000-square-foot cabin would negatively affect the effort of the city and county in preserving open space on Smuggler, which flanks Aspen’s northeast side.
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In a Q&A interview, Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan addresses loss of revenues, affects on capital improvements and what passholders can expect.