City hesitates on Nell plan for timeshares
A site visit to the base of Aspen’s Little Nell ski run is planned before the City Council decides if it will give a proposed timeshare hotel conceptual approval.The Residences at Little Nell will be back in front of the council at the end of this month for more discussion after being tabled at Monday night’s council meeting. Council members and citizens expressed some concern over the project’s height and mass, and over plans to house hotel employees outside of town.Applicants Aspen Land Fund LLC said they envision a project that will enliven the area with beds and retail space. Their proposed development includes 24 luxury timeshare units and commercial space in a total of 98,200 square feet.The plan also includes 60 underground parking spots, eight affordable housing units for employees and a terrace area to the west of the gondola for an aprs-ski scene. The Aspen Skiing Co. has been pegged to manage the Residences, which would be connected to the Skico’s Little Nell Hotel by an underground tunnel.The development, which has been in the works since January2001, would replace several buildings on the west side of the gondola plaza at the base of the ski run, including the former Tippler Nightclub/Italian Caviar building, Tipple Inn Condominiums and Tipple Lodge. Brooke Peterson, spokesperson for Aspen Land Fund LLC, said the group of investors negotiated with 15 property owners to assemble the hotel site.”To say it’s been a long and arduous journey to assemble this property is to understate it greatly,” he said.But the group will have to wait longer to get a conceptual approval from the council: after giving presentations on how their development has changed based on recommendations from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council determined that they’d like to see the area with their own eyes.Once the project has conceptual approval, it must return to the P&Z and City Council for final approval.At its highest point, applicants say the four-story building is 53 feet tall – compared to the North of Nell at 40 feet, and the Little Nell at 44 feet. The highest points are toward the center of the complex, rather than at the edges.Council members also expressed concern with the proposal to build employee housing for the project at the Airport Business Center; they’d prefer the housing be within the city limits. But planning consultant Sunny Vann warned if the applicants are forced to find housing for as many as 52 employees in the city, the project won’t go forward.Opposition to the project came from two people representing a portion of the North of Nell building. Lenny Oates, attorney for the North of Nell Condominium Association, said changes made since the P&Z review are significant enough that it should go back to the P&Z before the council takes up the conceptual application.”Our objection is that it crams height down on the [North of Nell],” he said. He also objected to the plans relocating the base of the Little Nell chairlift 15 feet to the east, saying it would crowd the gondola building.The height and mass of the proposed building prompted nearby resident Debbi Falender to speak up, saying the project should be built “shorter, smaller, and narrower.” Falender also feels the project should go back before the P&Z for approval.But others praised the project. North of Nell resident Perry Stone said the area is now an eyesore, and he sees the project “only as a plus.” With several vacant retail spaces in the North of Nell, the development could bring a new vitality, he said.”Business is lousy in this town,” said downtown property and business owner Stefan Kaelin. “Rents are on the way down, and rents affect the value of the buildings. We need this building.”Councilwoman-elect Rachel Richards watched the presentation from the audience, as did Torre, who will challenge Councilman Tony Hershey for his seat in a June 3 runoff. Hershey has recused himself from the project’s discussion, since he is a part-time Skico employee.Torre is currently slated to work part time for the Skico’s Channel 16 this summer, but has not yet decided if he would recuse himself from the discussion if he wins a council seat.[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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For the first time ever last season, skier visits generated by ski passes exceeded skier visits from single- and multi-day lift ticket sales at U.S. resorts, according to a study for National Ski Areas Association.