Chart House plan spurs look at lodging district
Aspen Times Staff Writer
With the owners of the former Chart House seeking approval to subdivide the property for a house and a duplex, City Councilman Terry Paulson called Tuesday for an emergency ordinance to halt residential uses in the lodging zone.
Council members agreed the lodging zone should be the first one they take up when they resume their review of Aspen’s infill proposals this fall, but Paulson mustered no support among his colleagues for emergency action.
“No changes we make now are going to affect the Chart House – it’s already in the pipeline,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards.
The council approved an ordinance to split the restaurant property on first reading Monday; second reading and a public hearing is scheduled Oct. 14.
In their memo to the council, city staffers noted that replacing the Chart House with a single-family house and a duplex does little to help maintain a healthy, diversified economy, though the homes are allowed in the underlying zoning.
They shouldn’t be, Paulson contends.
Residences are inappropriate on the site, according to Paulson, who advocated stiffer regulations in the lodge zone and an emergency measure to prevent other conversions in the meantime.
“That’s why I want an emergency ordinance. I don’t know what else is in the pipeline,” he said.
Paulson also suggested the council gets “blackmailed” into development approvals because developers know they can fall back on a residential application, which the council doesn’t want in its lodging district.
The Chart House, on the corner of Durant Avenue and Monarch Street, is located in the LTR or lodge/tourist/residential zone, which allows lodging and commercial uses, as well as residences.
The proposed infill legislation proposes eliminating future single-family homes and duplexes in the LTR zone, which would become simply the lodging zone. In past discussions, however, the council appeared hesitant to take that hard a line with the zoning, though reducing the allowed size of homes in the lodge district was discussed as disincentive to residential developments there.
“That will be very controversial – reducing house sizes or eliminating them from the lodging district,” warned Mayor Helen Klanderud.
The council is now expected to take up individual components of the infill package instead of trying to adopt it en masse. Richards suggested the lodging district come first.
“There seems to be more concern, based on what’s happening at the Chart House,” she said.
Owners of the property, Herb Balderson and Joey Cabell, are seeking a developer who might like to do something more with the property, according to Stan Clauson, their planning consultant. The restaurant closed in July after the operator broke its lease, and Balderson subsequently predicted the building would be torn down.
“These guys are really stuck with this property and a building that no restaurant is likely to want,” Clauson said. “They are looking for development partners – we don’t know if they’re going to find one. A residential use is a reasonable fallback.”
With several other pending hotel projects in the vicinity, including the Hyatt Grand Aspen, Dancing Bear Lodge and Residences at Little Nell, it’s unclear whether a developer would be willing to pursue a lodging project on the Chart House property, Clauson said.
“I don’t know that they’re going to find a developer that’s going to say, `Yeah, we’ll take this on,'” he said.
The Chart House opened in Aspen in 1961 and later became a national chain. It was Landry’s Restaurant Inc., which acquired the chain last year, that closed the Aspen operation.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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