City Council pans Limelite condos
August 9, 2005
At least three members of the Aspen City Council would rather see a fractional-ownership project than free-market condos as the financial driver that allows a longtime local family to redevelop the Limelite Lodge.
The 17 condos, proposed along with a new, moderately priced lodge to replace a collection of buildings centered at Monarch Street and Cooper Avenue, were just one of many aspects that troubled either the council or the crowd gathered for another four-hour discussion of the Limelite plan Monday.
The council adjourned the proceedings until today at 4 p.m., when it will continue giving their input on the plans for the Limelite and, possibly, vote on the conceptual application.
Dale Paas, a member of the family that owns the lodge, was back with his development team last night to walk the council through changes they made in response to complaints about the height of the proposed new lodge two weeks ago. The latest plan drops the lodge from 128 to 123 rooms, allowing a fourth floor to be pushed farther back from the Hyman Avenue side, where neighbors have expressed concern.
Joining Paas at the table late in the evening was Jerry Biehl, a partner who has brought financial backing to the project by purchasing the majority share in the parcel on the south side of Cooper, slated for the free-market condos.
A couple who reside north of the lodge first voiced objections to Biehl’s silent participation last week, suggesting the city has been deceived in the Limelite’s representations that the redevelopment was a family affair.
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Several other residents who wrote letters to the council agreed.
The redevelopment should be considered as two separate projects, argued neighbor Andrea Clark, a resident at 210 Cooper, whose husband first lodged the objections to Biehl’s majority interest in the southern parcel.
Biehl, who is named on the Limelite development application, agreed last night that his low profile may have been a mistake.
“I’m just another component of this development team. I’m no different than the architects or the engineer or the contractor,” he said during a break in the proceedings.
“We are not the front man for anyone,” Paas said. “This is our product.”
The condos will ultimately be sold to buyers; the family will retain ownership of the lodge.
“Our intention is to save the family farm. We want to save the Limelite,” Paas said.
The council made little of Biehl’s involvement, though Mayor Helen Klanderud said it was “unfortunate” he wasn’t at the table from the start.
“It wasn’t as forthcoming as I would have liked to see it,” she said.
Among the council and the audience, there was praise for the changes in the latest iteration of the plan but also questions about what guarantee the city has that the new Limelite will remain a moderately priced lodge if it grants concessions for the redevelopment.
Council members voiced concern about the 40 percent of the property that would go to free-market condos and the height of that building ” about 50 feet at the peak of a gable roof.
“I wouldn’t ever approve residential in this zone,” said Councilman Torre.
“These condominiums could sit there vacant most of the time,” Klanderud said, expressing a preference for fractional units instead of the condo component.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org