Base2 petition submitted, developer Mark Hunt plays wait and see
The architects of a petition drive to bring a Main Street lodging project to Aspen voters submitted more than 1,300 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office on Tuesday. Presuming the petition is certified, the question now is whether developer Mark Hunt will campaign for the lodge or shelf the project, provided the City Council refers it to voters.
“This adds so much time and uncertainty, and those are two bad things for any real estate deal,” Hunt said.
Hunt’s comments came about one hour before petition organizers Ward Hauenstein and Marcia Goshorn presented a heap of signatures to the City Clerk’s Office.
They had until today to submit the names but didn’t leave anything to error. They said they collected 1,312 signatures, more than double the necessary number of 617, which equates to 15 percent of the total number of electors who were registered to vote in May’s election.
“Tomorrow’s supposed to be the deadline, but I don’t want to take any chances,” Hauenstein told city staffers.
Goshorn said the petition drive attracted an unlikely cast of supporters from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.
Aspen also bustled with visitors over the Independence Day weekend, which helped bolster the effort, Goshorn said.
“It really hit home for a lot of people, especially during the Fourth of July holiday,” Goshorn said. “There was no parking on the streets, and the thought of putting a hotel up with no parking …”
For his part, Hunt has told the city he would have 15 off-site parking spaces to accommodate guests of the Base2 lodge, a 37-unit project that would be built at the corner of Main and Monarch streets. That space currently is occupied by the Conoco service station.
Hunt has said the lodge would be affordable, at least by Aspen standards, commanding average room rates of $200 in the high seasons. The perceived lack of affordable lodging continues to be a talking point for business leaders and public officials, and Hunt has said Base2 would help fulfill that need. In order for the business model to be successful, Hunt has said Base2 could not work without the already-approved 42-bedroom Base1 hotel, which would be built in place of the Buckhorn Arms Building, located near City Market on Cooper Avenue.
Hunt maintained that position Wednesday saying Base1 will not be built without Base2.
“It can’t be done without the Conoco project,” he said.
Even so, he kept the door cracked open to campaign for Base2.
“I don’t want to say never,” he said. “I’ve had so many people contact me and say, ‘Please do it.’ It wasn’t my intent for this to happen. My intent to was give something back and try to be part of the solution that we’ve been trying to figure out for 40 years.”
Referendum sparked petition
The City Council approved the Base2 ordinance June 1, granting multiple variances to the project by allowing 15,000 square feet in floor area — twice the 7,500-square-foot threshold for that location, and giving him waivers for housing and setback requirements.
To a number of Aspen residents, the approval undermined the passage of Referendum 1 in the May 5 municipal election. The Home Rule Charter amendment mandates that the City Council no longer give land-use variances to downtown commercial projects on height, mass, parking, affordable housing and view planes. Development proposals out of scope with city land-use rules would have to go to voters.
But City Attorney Jim True said that Hunt’s application was submitted before the May election, and Referendum 1 didn’t apply to Base2. True also sought a second legal opinion, which re-enforced his position.
Goshorn said even without the referendum, a petition drive likely would have been launched. City ordinances can be challenged through a petition drive to take them to the voters.
That was the case in August, when Aspen residents Cavanaugh O’Leary and Bert Myrin, who was elected in May to the City Council, launched a petition drive to ask voters to decide on the lodge-incentive ordinance. The ordinance, passed earlier that month by City Council, would have allowed four-story lodges near Aspen Mountain, larger free-market residences, fee waivers and decreased affordable-housing requirements, among other incentives for developers.
But the council withdrew the ordinance shortly after the drive was launched, nixing any potential for an election.
As for the Base2 petition, the council has two choices: either rescind the ordinance or refer it to voters.
Hunt said he would let the process play out before he makes any decisions.
“I’m not really thinking about any of this now,” he said. “I’m just to focus on my day job, so to speak, and not so much on the affordable lodge.”
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.