Aspen Club plan escapes rejection for now
Poised to reject timeshare residences at The Aspen Club and Spa, the City Council agreed Monday to instead continue its review of the plan to Dec. 12, giving the club time to rethink its proposal.Planning consultant Sunny Vann urged the council to hold off on rejecting the application, though council members expressed little hope that the club can return with a palatable project.With four council members present, only Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss said he was willing to grant the club’s plan for 19 residences a conceptual approval. Other council members grappled with the appropriateness of the residences, to be sold in fractional shares, on the East End site.Club owners want to create a destination holistic health facility that will ensure the club’s future viability, said Michael Fox, one of the owners. The Aspen Club and Spa faces increased competition from local hotels that have spa facilities, along with city projects like the Aspen Recreation Center and its tennis courts at the golf course.”We’re facing pretty hard choices at the club – it’s been suggested to us on more than one occasion that we tear the club down and build residential, but we don’t want to do that,” Fox said.But some council members questioned whether the influx of funds from the sale of fractional shares would guarantee the club’s long-term viability. The club won city approval for changes by its former owner about 10 years ago under the same premise, noted Councilwoman Rachel Richards.”Where is the mechanism that I’m sure that money stays with the club and doesn’t dissipate to the other owners?” she said.Nonetheless, Richards and other council members praised the club’s operation.”I think there have been an awful lot of good things said about The Aspen Club, and I think they’re all true,” Richards said.”I think your contributions to the community are over the top,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.A packed room of local residents, including a number of club employees, voiced mostly support for the club’s plan and praised the facility’s longtime role in the community.”I think it would be such a loss to the community if The Aspen Club could not continue,” said Candy Allen, an employee. “It’s a luxury club, but it’s affordable, still, to the public.”But attorney Michael Hoffman, co-chairman of opposition group The Right Development for Aspen, argued the city had no justification for approving an overlay to the club’s underlying residential zoning that would make the project possible.The RDA has panned the proposal as a timeshare lodge in a residential neighborhood. Vann countered that the planned townhomes aren’t intended to function as a lodge, but that’s how the fractional project must be categorized under the city’s rules.”This project was never designed nor intended for use as a hotel,” he said.The club has proposed building 13 townhomes where its tennis courts currently exist, plus six more residences on a second floor of the club facility. A new outdoor pool and renovation of the club’s spa and fitness facilities are also proposed, along with expanded programming.The club also proposed a level of underground parking below its lot off Ute Avenue to serve the new residences and ease the parking crunch it currently experiences, but the potential for increased traffic on Ute Avenue was a concern for some.”We are especially concerned about traffic impacts on Ute Avenue,” said Jim DeFrancia, president of the Ute Place Homeowners Association. “We just feel the character of this development will make a bad situation worse.”Councilman Torre, a tennis pro at The Aspen Club, is out of town but would be forced to recuse himself from review of his employer’s proposal anyway.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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