City to decide fate of Aspen Club today?
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – The speculative stew is brewing on whether one of Aspen’s biggest private projects in recent city memory will set a precedent for the town’s zoning restrictions.
And it may come to a head Tuesday as City Council hears what could be the last of Michael Fox’s presentations on why the expansion of his Aspen Club property should be approved.
The council’s approval would require its members to significantly alter some building rules to accommodate the overhaul. Some community members have voiced concern that future councils would use the decision as an excuse to fudge or ignore the rules.
Will that happen? For Councilman Steve Skadron, one of the project’s most vocal opponents, the answer is a resounding no.
His hard-line distrust of the initiative stems, he said, from the concept that private entities piggybacking on the powers of government is inherently problematic.
But, at the same time, the three years council has taken to debate and weigh the pros and cons exemplify its commitment to the right decision, he said.
Skadron said the right of council to make zoning exceptions is “not a privilege. We have the leverage through [specially planned area negotiations] to investigate these things” and decide if they are in the community’s best interest.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who also opposes the project, said it’s not the idea of a precedent that’s important.
It’s “whether you’re gonna succumb to a form of blackmail,” he said, referring to statements Fox has made in the past that the fate of the club relies, potentially, on the expansion.
The Aspen Club initiative has sparked a number of broad concerns among City Council.
Up until last week, the biggest debate regarded the project’s size, which would more than double the size of the club’s existing mass, adding about 100,000 square feet to the club. The expansion includes 20 timeshare condominiums and other housing improvements.
But in the May 24 council meeting, Ireland and Skadron made it clear that they wanted a guarantee that Fox’s promises to the community would come to fruition. The largest of those promises is a vast “community benefit,” as both Fox and Ireland put it.
The council asked Fox to bring a proposal of possible consequences to the table should he fail to realize his goals, the likeliest of which would be a monetary payout to the city within a certain amount of time.
The council will take up the discussion at Tuesday’s 5 p.m. meeting at City Hall.
Councilmen Dwayne Romero and Derek Johnson have indicated they were ready to support the expansion even before Fox promised to bring consequences to the table, but Ireland remained skeptical, saying he doesn’t know if today’s meeting would be the last.
A vote Tuesday would end the battle that has been a topic of tense community debate lasting nearly three years.
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