Aspen Parking Department proposal: Use hotel parking garages or lose parking-pass perks
The days of Aspen lodges offering $3 parking passes to their guests are numbered if a proposal is approved by the City Council.
At a budget work session Tuesday, Parking Department Director Mitch Osur introduced a two-pronged plan to the City Council that would raise the pass price to $10, and they would only be available to lodges with garages when they are at capacity. Hotels without parking garages would still be able to offer their guests the passes at the new $10 rate.
For some time, the city has sold the passes for $3 each to lodges. They are valid for as many as seven days of the guests’ stays and allow visitors to park their vehicles in residential areas. They do not apply to the downtown core.
About 15 Aspen lodges use the program, Osur told the council.
“Limelight is our biggest user of the lodge passes,” he said.
The Limelight also has a parking garage. Under Osur’s proposal, it would have to fill its garage before selling the cut-rate passes to hotel guests.
One aspect that concerned council members was enforcement. Lodges can charge upward of $30 to $40 a night for use of a parking garage, while the city’s guest passes financially entice visitors to park in residential areas.
Osur, however, said parking officers would regularly monitor the garages to make sure the hotels are playing by the rules.
“Those (garages) are supposed to be filled up with cars for their hotel operations,” Councilman Adam Frisch said.
Osur, in an interview Thursday, said the idea was prompted earlier this summer when he and city officials inspected the parking garages of various downtown lodges.
“A lot of them were storing furniture and desks in the parking spaces, and some were storing antique vehicles,” he said. “One hotel had a break room in the garage, and the intent of the garage is to park cars.”
Osur also offered that the original intent of the pass program for lodges was to help the smaller ones that don’t have garages in a town where parking spaces are a scarce and costly commodity.
In 2015, the city sold 7,138 parking passes to lodges.
The biggest users are the Limelight, Molly Gibson, Hotel Aspen and Frias Properties, he said. Luxury hotels, such as The Little Nell and St. Regis Aspen, don’t use them, Osur said.
The Hotel Jerome does, but it also uses the Rio Grande parking garage for its valet parking service, Osur said.
“We are going to get push back about this,” he said.
Referencing the 50 percent parking-fee hike that was implemented during June, July and August and will resume during ski season, Osur said: “It will be worse than me doubling prices in the core.”
Osur said he plans to reach out to lodges next week.
Jeff Hanle, spokesman for Aspen Skiing Co., which owns the Limelight, said the company had no comment because it has yet to talk to the city about the proposal.
The proposal still needs to be approved by the City Council as part of its budget process for 2017. City Council budget work sessions will be held Oct. 17, 18 and 25, as well as Nov. 1.
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