Back to square one for Aspen’s Lift One
ASPEN ” Developers planning to redesign the base of Aspen Mountain have officially given up their pursuit to gain voter approval of the Lift One Master Plan this spring.
Developers Bob Daniel and John Sarpa said Thursday they support Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland’s plans to make a motion at the March 23 City Council meeting to pull the Lift One Master Plan off the May 5 ballot.
Sarpa and Daniel said they don’t know what their next course of action is, but they will spend the next few weeks regrouping and reaching out to critics of their mixed-use project, as well as the citizen task force that spent the majority of last year creating the master plan.
After meeting with city officials this week, Sarpa and Daniel realized there wasn’t enough time to make changes to Ordinance 34, which governs the master plan for the Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain.
Sarpa, principal of Centurion Partners, is proposing to build a 175,000-square-foot condominium hotel on South Aspen Street called the Lodge at Aspen Mountain.
Daniel, chief operating officer of Roaring Fork Lodging Co., is proposing to build a 130,000-square-foot membership lodge called the Lift One Lodge across the street from the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, partly where the Holland House used to sit at the base of Lift 1A.
A host of community amenities, including a surface chairlift at Dean Street and a new 1A chairlift, are part of the proposal.
After six months of work by a citizen task force known as the Lift One COWOP to create and recommend a master plan for the area, the City Council ” after elected officials were split in a tie vote on approving it ” voted in January to send the development proposal to Aspen voters.
The developers hired a professional polling firm and political consultant to conduct a telephone survey of Aspen residents to gauge public support for the project. The results weren’t favorable and it appeared the ballot question would fail at the polls.
Sarpa and Daniel held a meeting last week with critics of the project who planned to campaign against it. They wanted to get a sense if they could appease them by making Sarpa’s hotel smaller and more affordable for mid-level guests.
But then they realized there wouldn’t be enough time to make substantive changes to the master plan before the March 23 deadline to finalize ballot language.
So now it’s back to the drawing board for city planners and the developers.
“We don’t yet know what the process will be,” Sarpa said. “There was an awful lot of work done and results in the master plan … how do you honor that work but make changes?”
Daniel has sent a letter to task force members explaining the pros and cons of pursuing a public vote, and the reasons why they have bailed on it.
The next likely step is to reconvene the task force and include critics of the project to get consensus on a modified plan that a potentially new council will be able to approve after the May 5 election.
“Our goal is to not disband or terminate the COWOP,” Daniel said, adding a lot of good work has been done ” the results of which shouldn’t be abandoned. “We remain committed to working in a master plan process.”
Daniel last year pulled his Lift One Lodge application and joined in the master planning effort in hopes of getting approval. The effort presented problems because of economic linkages tied to the master plan for both developers. Some level of separation in the future is likely.
“What we believe is that there needs to be a measure of independence that didn’t exist with the prior plan,” Daniel said. “We need to have a greater control of our destiny.”
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