City Council conducts rare ‘sketch plan review’ for South Aspen Street lodge plan |

City Council conducts rare ‘sketch plan review’ for South Aspen Street lodge plan

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen City Council members held a rare “sketch plan review” Monday for the South Aspen Street lodge proposal for an area near the base of the west side of Aspen Mountain, between Dean and Gilbert streets near Lift 1A. Some members of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission participated in the discussion.

Earlier this year, the property’s developer, ASV Aspen Street Owners LLC, submitted plans for a project centered around 14 free-market townhouses and 10 affordable-housing units on the site, along with eight off-site affordable-housing units.

But council members were successful in asking for new talks on the possibility of a lodge property on the site. Allowing the development of hotel rooms, not free-market units, is one of the council’s stated goals because of the city’s shrinking hot-bed base.

A “sketch plan review” is a process in which a developer, council members and city staffers and interested residents can discuss a potential project before a formal project application is submitted to the city, saving time and money associated with creating designs and reviewing them. Community Development Department staff suggested this type of informal review because of the 10-year history of design concepts associated with the property, which formerly was part of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal.

“It’s not a decision-type meeting, and the applicant is not technically allowed to rely on direction that they hear,” Community Development Director Chris Bendon said at Monday’s meeting. “It is an opportunity for some reciprocity. Oftentimes we hear from Planning and Zoning Commission members and from City Council, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had an opportunity to talk with that applicant before they got invested in the process?’ So this is that opportunity.”

Many of the concepts discussed Monday were outgrowths of plans that evolved from previous neighborhood master-planning processes. David Parker, representing the developer, said current plans call for three separate buildings on the property with a mix of residential, fractional and hotel rooms. He did not have information on the exact percentages of each.

Councilman Torre questioned the height of design features and mechanical systems atop one of the buildings, saying anything with a “six” in front of it (60 feet or higher) would be something he would have a problem supporting. He also wanted more detailed information on the percentage mix of the various uses for the three buildings.

Mayor Mick Ireland said he welcomed the discussion on a potential lodge, saying he much preferred the idea to the one about townhouses.

“We have enough dead space in this town; I’m not interested in creating more,” he said.

Ireland said he wants to see some sort of a guarantee on the lodge’s sustainability, such as a long-term deed restriction that would prohibit its conversion to another use.

“If it’s going to be there for 50 years, (the restriction) ought to say it’s going to be hotel rooms for 50 years,” he said. “It’s not going be, ‘Oh my, we have a crisis, the market says we have to do this, and so we need to condominiumize.’ I don’t want to inflict that on my successors.”

The developer is expected to revise its plans while adding more detail before going back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for full review. The issue would then return to the council following the commission’s recommendation.

In other business:

• The council voted 4-0, with little discussion, to grant new vesting rights to the Boomerang affordable-housing project on West Hopkins Avenue. The owner-developer’s rights for a lodging project, approved in 2006, were set to expire this October.

The developer no longer wants to pursue a lodge on the site – the council granted approval for an affordable-housing project last year amid much criticism from neighbors. But because a lawsuit filed on behalf of neighbors has delayed the start of construction, the three-year extension of vesting rights was seen as a fair way to protect the developer’s, and the community’s, interest in the property.

Jennifer Phelan, the city’s deputy director of community development, said that once the developer submits final construction plans for the affordable-housing complex, the vested-rights limitation will apply to that project and not the 2006 lodge approval.

• The council voted 3-1, with Ireland dissenting, to let stand the Historic Preservation Commission’s conceptual approval of a third-floor addition and second-floor expansion at 534 E. Cooper Ave., the location of Boogie’s Diner.

The council called up the item at its July 23 meeting but did not address it until Monday night. Ireland questioned whether the Historic Preservation Commission’s denial of a request to increase the building height to 42 feet was fair given that another nearby building nearly reaches 42 feet. But three other council members agreed that the 38-foot limit decided by the commission was appropriate.

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