Base of Aspen Mtn. to get some attention |

Base of Aspen Mtn. to get some attention

ASPEN ” A grand plan officially is in the works for the base of Aspen Mountain.

Without a master plan for the ski area’s west side, developers have acknowledged they face an uphill battle in getting any land-use application approved. And elected officials have acknowledged that more hotel rooms are needed in that area but not without a smart growth plan in place.

Bob Daniel, the lead representative for a proposed 114,000-square-foot lodge at the base of Lift 1A which was scheduled to go for public review next month, has agreed to hold off the project until a community discussion can take place about what should be built at the bottom of Ajax.

And John Sarpa, a principal for Centurion Partners, was granted a one-year extension Monday by the City Council on his vested rights to develop 14 townhomes and 17 affordable housing units on South Aspen Street, just across from the proposed Lift One Lodge.

“Clearly everyone needed to have free rein to participate,” Daniel said. “Getting this extension is helpful.”

Sarpa’s proposed Lodge at Aspen Mountain was shot down last fall; it would have been built instead of the townhomes. The lodge was a proposed hotel with fractional-ownership condos that the council said was too large.

But there still might be hope for Centurion to build something that contributes to the resort’s rental pool now that Sarpa is a willing participant in a public master planning process.

“What we are basically doing is clearing the decks,” Sarpa told the council Monday.

If a master plan doesn’t happen, Sarpa has the option to build the townhomes until July 2009.

Property owners and developers linked to the Shadow Mountain side of Ajax have agreed to entertain the idea of entering into a public process dubbed COWOP, short for Convenience and Welfare of the Public, used when public property is part of a development. A task force of government officials, residents, affected property owners and neighbors would design a master plan for the area.

The COWOP process, which will be initiated by community development director Chris Bendon, will be presented to the City Council on Feb. 25.

“We are willing to participate with [city] staff and the City Council to determine that the COWOP process is appropriate for these properties,” Daniel said.

The idea of a master plan was first initiated by Mayor Mick Ireland who got the backing of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board to help facilitate bringing the myriad of property owners at the base together. And it appears all property owners, including the Aspen Skiing Co., the city and individual property owners are ready to play.

However, the main players ” Daniel, Centurion, Skico and the city, will begin the process and bring the other affected property owners into the mix once a plan is established.

A central point of the master plan would be to bring the chairlift farther into town. The Lift One Lodge proposes to move it 125 farther uphill. Lift 1A already is located at the top of South Aspen Street, which already is a steep hike for skiers.

During the Lodge at Aspen Mountain review, Ireland said the feedback he and his fellow council members received from the public was that lodging was important in that area and so was keeping a chair lift in the same location, or moving its bottom terminus even lower.

A master plan could address all of those elements, plus more, including affordable housing on site and a proposed ski museum, Ireland said.

Daniel is representing Jim Chaffin, Jim Light and David Wilhelm in their proposed Lift One Lodge ” a 114,00-square-foot lodge with 32 suites containing a total of 97 separate rental rooms. The lodge would be where the Holland House currently sits, as well as three parcels the Skico owns around the base of Lift 1A.

Time is of the essence for Daniel’s development team since the owners have poured tens of millions of dollars into land investments and planning. Their project has won the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Historic Preservation Commission.

“We need to move forward with [the master plan] and not spend a lot of time,” Daniel said, adding Sarpa’s vested rights extension to July 2009 is a workable deadline to meet. “It’s got to work for everybody.”

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