Board is hoping to settle Grand Aspen questions tonight |

Board is hoping to settle Grand Aspen questions tonight

The number of employees that will be generated by the proposed redevelopment of the Grand Aspen hotel will be the hot topic at tonight’s Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Board meeting.

The board is entering its second round of discussions on the subject. Savanah Limited Partnership wants to build a proposed 150-room hotel to replace the Grand Aspen, and 13 free-market residential dwelling units.

Savanah’s current application is in the second phase of the comprehensive Aspen Mountain Subdivision plan, which included the 257-room St. Regis Hotel.

One dispute that may be resolved tonight is how to bridge a 40-figure difference of opinion between the housing authority staff and the applicant on the total number of employees needed for the new hotel.

According to the housing authority, housing for 67.9 employees should be required before the hotel is built. That total is derived from a formula based on how many people were eventually employed to staff the St. Regis, formerly the Ritz Carlton-Aspen.

But Savanah counters that only 27.1 employees should be included in the formula because the new hotel will be upscale, not a luxury establishment like the St. Regis. As a result it won’t have the same staffing requirements, Savanah claims.

Housing officials have said an audit may be required, as was done with the Ritz, to settle the dispute. That way, there will be a check in the process, no matter which employee projection is finally used. If more employees are hired than originally estimated, a higher housing mitigation would be required.

“We’re perfectly willing to have an audit because honestly, we think we have the numbers,” said John Sarpa of Savanah.

Another topic that has generated some debate is whether or not Savanah should be able to use the Bavarian Inn as a way to house employees of the new hotel.

The housing authority staff believes that the Bavarian Inn was presented at the time of the Ritz approval as “an inducement,” as a sweetener to sway public sentiment on the controversial hotel application that had to pass voter approval.

“It was not intended for mitigation,” said Dave Tolen, executive director of the housing authority. “New growth should pay its own way. It shouldn’t be able to use something that was required in the past.”

But Sarpa describes Tolen’s view as a “convoluted interpretation.”

“We always intended to use the Bavarian as further mitigation,” Sarpa said. “It was never intended nor stated at the time, that we wouldn’t.”

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