Aspen Club in for a workout with proposed expansion
ASPEN – The Aspen Club ownership on Monday entered into the final review process seeking approval from the Aspen City Council to build 20 timeshare condos, adding 55,000 square feet to its facility.
The private club is seeking to subdivide the property between Ute Avenue and Highway 82 to accommodate 14 townhomes and six condos, as well as an underground parking garage and 12 affordable housing units.
The thrust behind the development is to help finance the transformation of the club into a healthy living retreat center, called “Aspen Club Living” that would offer health and wellness programs to timeshare owners, club members and the general public.
“It’s creating something unique in the community,” said club owner Michael Fox.
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The real estate portion of the program also would finance an estimated $7 million in upgrades to an expanded club facility and help offset its operational costs.
A majority of the council conceptually approved the project in July 2008 but had concerns that Fox and his development team have addressed in the final development application.
Because of time constraints late Monday night, the council didn’t make any comments on the proposal and instead listened to nearly an hour of public comment.
Dozens of people, mostly club employees or members, spoke on behalf of the project. They told the council the development program would ensure that the club will continue to operate, and would create a destination holistic spa retreat center focused on mind, body and spirit, which will attract new visitors to town.
While the project has its supporters, there’s opposition mounting. Several neighbors of the club spoke against the project, saying it’s too big and will create major traffic problems along Ute Avenue.
Attorney Bob Hoover spoke on behalf of 26 neighbors. He told the council there’s no guarantee that the city can control the programming of the Aspen Club and there’s no public benefit in granting approval.
He suggested to the council that the city will be sued if the development is approved in the rural residential zone.
In a Feb. 1 memo, Hoover laid out the neighbors’ positions and why the council shouldn’t approve the development. He also noted that the club submitted a similar development proposal a few years ago and withdrew it in 2006 because it appeared there wasn’t majority support from the council to approve it. Most of the same neighbors Hoover is representing were against the first proposal.
“The City Council has before it a land-use application that will greatly alter the neighborhood in which the club is located and is totally inappropriate under the circumstances,” Hoover wrote. “The club is a private for-profit enterprise for the benefit of its investors. It is not open to the general public and offers few truly ‘public’ benefits and amenities.”
The townhomes would be divided into four separate two-story structures, consisting of three and four-bedroom units that range in size from 2,310 square feet to 2,740 square feet. Three of the buildings would be located where the tennis courts sit, on what’s called the “lower bench.”
The six condos are three- and two-bedroom units that would be added to the existing facility, and range from 1,670 square feet to 2,150 square feet.
All 20 of the units would be sold in 1/8 interests with a total of 160 owners. The conceptual application proposed 1/16 interests for a total of 320 separate owners.
Despite that the application has been modified from the original plan and since conceptual approval, city community development officials said there is still too much mass on the site. They propose that there be more open space and two units be either moved or relocated from the lower bench.
The proposal also calls for 132 parking spaces – a net increase of 41 spaces. Spaces would be accommodated on a surface lot and an underground parking garage.
Increased traffic along Ute Avenue is a major concern among council members and residents who live in the area. Fox’s development team has provided a comprehensive transportation management plan that holds the club to zero growth in traffic as a result of development.
The club plans to achieve that by offering increased shuttle service to the club at various stops throughout the city, and employ alternative transportation methods for members and employees.
The transportation plan will likely be dissected by the council at one of the upcoming public meetings on the proposal. Officials in the city’s community development department said the club’s transportation plan is one of the most comprehensive they’ve seen.
Also likely to be a major topic of discussion will be Fox’s request that he have seven years of vested rights if an approval is given.
State law and the city’s land use code allow for three years of vesting rights but because of the uncertainty of the national and local economy, and the availability financing, Fox is requesting a longer vesting period.
The next meeting will be held Feb. 22.
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