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Bavarian Inn plan sparks controversy

Sarah S. Chung

Almost a decade after voters had their say, there are two very different interpretations about what the Bavarian Inn is worth as housing mitigation for Savanah Limited Partners.

And which version the City Council eventually adopts could impact two current planning applications submitted by Savanah.

Presently in different stages of the planning approval process are proposals to redevelop both the Grand Aspen Hotel and the Bavarian Inn. Both are owned by Savanah and both are tied to the controversial approval of the Ritz-Carlton, now St. Regis hotel.

The housing authority staff and some members of the housing board contend that the Inn was presented to voters as an “inducement” to allow approval of the Ritz application. They maintain that the Bavarian was never intended to provide housing for future projects.

But Savanah representative John Sarpa argues that, “The bottom line is that the Bavarian Inn was presented, purchased, and held for mitigation of the entire [application],” which includes both the Ritz and the Grand Aspen.

Aspen voters approved a ballot question in 1990 stating: “Developer shall, in good faith, process a land use application for affordable housing suitable for the eight-tenths of an acre on Main Street known as the Bavarian Inn.”

According to Dave Tolen, executive director of the housing authority, allowing Savanah to use the Bavarian as housing mitigation for the proposed 150-room Grand Aspen redevelopment would set a disastrous precedent. He said it would be equal to developer John McBride submitting a hotel proposal and being allowed to use his North 40 affordable housing project to meet the employee housing requirement.

Housing board chairman Frank Peters supports Tolen’s position. He characterized the eight-year delay in submitting a Bavarian Inn application as not constituting a “good faith effort.”

Sarpa, in turn, explained that while the Bavarian Inn property was purchased in 1990, and has since been used as affordable housing, the redevelopment application was inevitably held up.

The first delay was waiting for the 1995 Ritz audit to see if the Bavarian was needed as mitigation for the Ritz. It wasn’t. The second hurdle was waiting to see how the Grand Aspen redevelopment plan would “shape up,” said Sarpa. An application submitted between 1995 and the current proposal was withdrawn.

The housing board will continue its deliberations on the Grand Aspen-Bavarian Inn issue on June 7.


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