Bavarian Inn squabble resumes
Will the new affordable housing planned for the Bavarian Inn on the west side of town be home for more than 40 workers from the general pool of employees in Aspen?
Or will some part of that housing be reserved specifically for workers in the planned new 150-room hotel that is expected to replace the aging Grand Aspen Hotel?
Those questions and more may be answered tonight at Aspen’s City Council meeting.
In the continuing development saga of Savanah Limited Partnership, tonight the council will hold what may be the final public hearing on Savanah’s conceptual development plans for the base of Aspen Mountain.
Savanah, original developer of what is now the St. Regis hotel and at one time one of the largest property owners in Aspen, is seeking to redevelop the aging Grand Aspen Hotel on Dean Street and to build luxury homes in the bowl at the top of South Mill Street.
Another public hearing, part of tonight’s session, is scheduled to decide how much of the planned affordable housing from the Bavarian Inn redevelopment plan should be credited to the Grand Aspen, and how much should be counted as “mitigation” for an earlier development project.
As part of the development process for the planned 150-room hotel, Savanah has agreed to house any additional hotel employees above the number who have been working at the Grand Aspen. That number is estimated to be 41, according to city records and statements by the developers.
John Sarpa, a spokesman for Savanah, said at a recent meeting that the hotel is to be built with accommodations for 12 employees on the hotel grounds, so 29 employees will need housing elsewhere. Savanah has asked to be able to use some of the Bavarian Inn redevelopment, which is expected to create housing for about 43 people, to meet the Grand Aspen’s employee housing requirement.
But a number of city residents believe Savanah promised the Bavarian Inn redevelopment to gain approval of its development of the former Ritz-Carlton Aspen (now the St. Regis) and shouldn’t count toward housing for subsequent developments. The Bavarian redevelopment, they contend, was promised by Savanah back in 1990, during a heated election battle over voter approvals for the former Ritz-Carlton Aspen (now the St. Regis).
According to this argument, Savanah promised to convert the Bavarian Inn to affordable housing if voters gave their approval for the Ritz. Supporters of this view point to the fact that the ballot question in the February 1990 election, which was written by the Ritz development team, specifically mentions the Bavarian Inn affordable housing project.
In a Jan. 11, 1990 opinion piece published in The Aspen Times, Ritz developer Mohamed Hadid argues forcefully for voter approval of Option A on the ballot, the question written by Hadid’s consultants.
At one point Hadid wrote, “Most importantly, Option A includes an additional affordable housing project on the Bavarian Inn property.”
Hadid goes on to say, in the same opinion piece, “This community has an opportunity to be fair, do the right thing and address real issues facing Aspen – affordable housing and economic stability through a conference hotel.”
An advertisement in the Feb. 6, 1990 Aspen Times, describing Option A, refers to “the additional Bavarian Inn project for up to another 90 workers.”
Sarpa, however, has rejected such arguments, saying that Savanah did not specifically promise to build the Bavarian Inn affordable housing if the Ritz was approved, and that the Bavarian Inn project was viewed by Hadid as a backup.
Sarpa has maintained that the Bavarian was for use in the event that other housing could not be found or built, or that more housing is needed for mitigation than was originally understood. If it was not needed for the Ritz housing requirements, he said at a recent council meeting, it was to be held for mitigation in later projects.
The City Council was split at its last meeting on the question of how to deal with the Bavarian Inn mitigation issue, and Sarpa was invited to deliver his view of the matter at tonight’s meeting.
Councilman Terry Paulson indicated interest in offering Savanah a 70-30 “compromise,” under which Savanah would be able to use roughly a third of the affordable housing at the Bavarian for their hotel workers.
Mayor Rachel Richards, however, has said she believes the Bavarian Inn project was promised to the voters in the 1990 election, and that it should not be used for mitigation of the new hotel on the Grand Aspen site.
Council members Tony Hershey and Tom McCabe, however, seemed to lean toward Paulson’s compromise idea.
Council member Jim Markalunas was not present at the meeting.
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