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Aspen chamber wants master plan voice

ASPEN ” How much of a voice the busi­ness community should have in planning the base of Aspen Mountain has become a bone of contention among city officials.

Whether the Aspen Chamber Resort Association should have a dedicated seat on a task force charged with mapping out a master plan for the Lift 1A side of Ajax was the topic of two conver­sations that took place Tuesday in public forums.

ACRA board member Helen Klanderud and Mayor Mick Ire­land had a somewhat heated exchange at the ACRA board meeting Tuesday when Klan­derud confronted Ireland on why the Aspen City Council, at its Monday session, didn’t consider the business organization as an official member of the task force.

Ireland brought Klanderud’s concern to the council Tuesday night, asking that his colleagues consider allowing ACRA to have a dedicated seat on the task force, which will be part of what’s known as a COWOP process (Conve­nience and Welfare of the Public). But it appears that only Ireland and City Councilman Dwayne Romero are in favor of giving ACRA an official seat. The other three council members ” Steve Skadron, Jack Johnson and J.E. DeVilbiss are skeptical that ACRA won’t have an impartial viewpoint since it came out in favor of an 80-­room hotel and fractional condo development at the base of Ajax that was shot down by the council last fall.

“They voiced support for the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, without any sense either,” Johnson said. “I just want to make sure the public’s interest is rep­resented.”

The council Monday suggested a roster of 22 task force members, including a handful of city officials, area land owners, neighbors and affected parties such as the Aspen His­torical Society ” which has plans for a museum for the area ” as well as offi­cials from Aspen Valley Ski and Snow­board Club, ACRA and a few residents. But those were only suggestions and nothing was set in stone Monday. Rather, the council wanted to further debate who officially should partici­pate and ultimately vote on a master plan for the “second portal” to Aspen’s flagship mountain.

The issue was brought up again dur­ing a Tuesday work session, when Skadron, DeVilbiss and Johnson said they were OK with an ACRA official sit­ting on the task force as a general member of the public.

“I don’t have an issue with ACRA participating in the COWOP process,” Skadron wrote in an e-mail to The Times. “I do have an issue designating seats for a special interest group, out­side of those immediately impacted, in such a way that limits the public’s opportunity to contribute or vote on it. Perhaps the answer is in expanding the number of COWOP participants, which I would be amenable to.”

Klanderud said it’s not acceptable for an ACRA member to participate as a general resident.

“It’s not the same as an organization that can poll its members and can consider varying opinions,” she said of the 800-member ACRA. “In my mind, it’s 100 percent appropriate that ACRA have a dedicated seat on the task force.

“It’s an opportunity to have an organization that would represent a good portion of the community,” she added.

Ireland late last year asked ACRA to be a facilitator in getting together all the major players involved. He rea­soned Tuesday that the organization should be involved as a result.

Over the years, city officials have looked at the neighborhood in piece­meal fashion, taking it one building application at a time, according to city staff.

The development of lodging at the base of Aspen Mountain is crucial to the master plan and a necessity to a resort that has lost thousands of rental rooms over the past several years.

John Sarpa, principal of Centurion Partners which proposed the hotel, still hopes to develop lodging at the base of the mountain and is one of several property owners who will be part of the COWOP process.

Bob Daniel, the lead representative for the proposed 114,000-square-foot Lift One Lodge that would be located across the street from Sarpa’s develop­ment, pulled his application last month in order to participate in a mas­ter plan.

The $138,000 master plan cost will be split four ways between the area’s major landowners ” the city of Aspen, Centurion Partners, the Aspen Skiing Co., as well as David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light, who own the property where the Lift One Lodge would be built.

Some council members also are concerned about other property own­ers participating, such as area condo and homeowners since most of them also spoke in favor of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.

“First they were opposed to it and then they supported it,” Johnson said, questioning whether they were bought off by Centurion. “I wonder why?”

Romero responded by saying, “They got benefit.”

Romero added that neighborhood support typically should be viewed as positive, and the public process lends itself to a fair review.

“I don’t think anyone can pick up the ball and run away with it, just by the sheer fact that there are three prop­erty owners and the city and a diverse group of neighbors,” Romero said.

The council agreed that residents should have just as much ” if not more ” participation than the proper­ty owners in the area.

DeVilbiss said he would like to find homeowners to serve on the task force who were neutral or against the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.

“I’m mistrustful of the neighbor concept,” he said. “Since I believe John Sarpa still wants to build a 70-room hotel, I would like to see an objective process.”

Ireland reminded the council it has the final say on approving a master plan and the COWOP task force is only a recommending body.

The City Council will select the task force within the next month, and begin the process in April and finish by September or October.

Some council members are hesitant about having a representative from Stay Aspen Snowmass on the task force as well.

“I do have an issue that Stay Aspen Snowmass is on because it’s owned by Skico,” Johnson said, adding Skico already will have at least one seat. “For me personally, I need parity.

“The easiest way to get criticized is to say ‘all it was was a bunch of prop­erty owners and the city and you know how stupid they are,'” Johnson joked.

All of the council members want to be on the task force, with the exception of Skadron, who said he will attend the public meetings but will reserve his vote until a plan gets to the council. Council members will have to battle it out in the future for the two seats avail­able for elected officials.

Klanderud, Aspen’s former mayor, said she sees no issue with who sup­ported the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal because it was voted down, and a new land-use application will come as a result of the master plan­ning process.

“This is a new ball game,” she said. “I believe everyone who sits on this task force should have an open mind.

csack@aspentimes.com


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