Aspen Lift One proposal in limbo
ASPEN ” Developers aiming to convince voters this May to approve a mixed-use project at the Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain hope to win them over by reducing the size and committing to affordable lodge rooms.
John Sarpa, principal for Centurion Partners, said Tuesday he is working with city officials to amend the ballot language that was passed by the Aspen City Council in January.
The amendments will involve reducing the size of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain ” a 175,000-square-foot hotel and ownership lodge, which is being proposed by Centurion on South Aspen Street.
Sarpa said he also is considering guaranteeing mid-priced lodge rooms, or relatively affordable ones by Aspen standards.
The turn of events comes after Sarpa and Bob Daniel, who is proposing a lodge across the street from the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, held a meeting Friday with critics of the project. Also present were members of a citizen task force who created a master plan for the area that was molded around the commercial development, which is nearly 300,000 square feet in its current form. About 40 people attended the gathering at the Aspen Square Condominiums.
Those who attended said Sarpa asked his critics how he could make his proposal more palatable to the voters, which turned the conversation to mass and scale, and affordability.
Several sources said developers are considering pulling the ballot question because it’s become apparent, based on weeks of phone surveying of residents, that it will fail at the polls.
Sarpa said he and Daniel called the meeting to get more specifics from critics on what their issues are with the proposal.
“A lot of things were discussed and what it means to [Centurion partners Scott Matteson and Mike Smith] and Bob [Daniel],” Sarpa said. “And what the consequence of making substantive changes is.”
Observers said the meeting was convened so developers could test the waters and see if they could change the positions of residents who plan to oppose the ballot measure.
“I think it was to test the tolerance and aptitude for accepting those changes,” said Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon, who has been intimately involved in the master plan for more than a year and with Sarpa’s proposal for even longer.
Bendon said he hasn’t spoke to Sarpa yet about what changes would be made to the ordinance governing the master plan, which is scheduled to go before voters on May 5.
But Bendon, Sarpa and City Attorney John Worcester will have to hash it out soon because the deadline to amend and rescind ballot measures is March 23.
That means city staff and developers have three days to do their work before Bendon must write a memo and recommendation on March 16, so it can be included in the City Council packet, which goes public in eight days.
The City Council has a regular meeting on March 23, when it would vote on the amended ballot question.
“It’s getting pretty tight,” Bendon said. “At some point, a decision needs to be made.”
Options for developers at this point is to leave the ballot question as is, pull it or go to their individual backup plans.
“Obviously there is a lot up in the air,” Bendon said.
Sarpa, Matteson and Smith have approval to build 14 townhomes and 17 affordable-housing units on South Aspen Street.
But the project has been put on hold over the years so Centurion could pursue developing a hotel. Centurion’s proposal to develop the Lodge at Aspen Mountain was rejected in the fall of 2007 by the City Council.
Instead of building the townhomes at that time, Sarpa and his partners decided to enter into a master-planning effort with adjacent landowners, including the Aspen Skiing Co. and the city of Aspen. After a six-month planning process, the City Council in January voted to let Aspen residents decide the fate of the development.
The other major piece of the master plan is the Lift One Lodge proposed by developers David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light under the auspices of Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge Aspen LLC and represented by Daniel. It would be 130,000 square feet and built below Lift 1A, in part where the Holland House once operated.
Daniel last year submitted the Lift One Lodge land-use application but then pulled it so he could join in the master planning process, hoping to get community and council buy-in rather than going it alone in getting approval.
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