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City is cool to housing plan

Janet Urquhart

A housing project proposed near the base of Aspen Mountain was panned Monday by Aspen City Council members who suggested the land might be better used for lodging.

Though the combination free-market and affordable housing project includes more worker housing than the city code requires, several council members weren’t thrilled with using key property within walking distance of a chairlift for big townhomes that will likely sit vacant much of the time.

Members suggested the developer, Savanah Limited Partnership, consider more affordable housing or using the land, located near the bottom of Lift 1A, for lodging.

Two other lodges, the Holland House and Skiers Chalet, are nearby.

“This is one of the last sites available to rebuild our bed base at the base of the mountain,” said Mayor Rachel Richards. “I guess I have some big concerns about where this use is going.”

The council delayed action on the conceptual plans for the development to March 26 and agreed to make a visit to the site before then.

Savanah, developer of the former Ritz-Carlton Hotel (now the St. Regis), has proposed construction of 17 rental affordable housing units and 14 free-market townhomes on three parcels in the area of Aspen and Juan streets. The existing Mine Dump Apartments, a duplex and a single-family home that exist on the properties would be demolished.

Several residents of the nearby Lift One and Timberidge condominiums complained about the project’s impact on their views and the exacerbation of traffic and on-street parking woes in the neighborhood.

Council members agreed to keep those concerns in mind when they visit the site. The project would provide on-site parking for all the units as required by the code, noted Savanah planning consultant Sunny Vann. The developers have also proposed underground parking to replace 30 surface spaces the Aspen Skiing Co. leases from Savanah on one of the parcels.

The project includes 38 free-market bedrooms in 14 units and 43 affordable housing bedrooms in 17 units, but the free-market component will consume 52,119 square feet of the 72,728-square-foot total. The affordable housing will require 20,609 square feet, according to the conceptual plan.

“I know you have to finance it somewhere . but we seem to have an excess of space for the free market,” said Councilman Jim Markalunas.

“These are very large free-market condos,” Richards agreed, decrying the use of the space for unoccupied second homes when “the town is crying for bed base.”

“I can’t help but think this could be better put toward lodging,” Councilman Tom McCabe agreed. “I wonder if there isn’t something you can do better and get rid of the condos altogether.”

Councilman Terry Paulson lobbied the developers to boost the amount of affordable housing in the project, though Vann pointed out Savanah has voluntarily gone well beyond what is required for affordable housing.

The proposed affordable housing includes four one-bedroom units and 13 three-bedroom units.


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