Concessions to Limelite are fair price to pay
July 28, 2005
The Paas family has put together a thoughtful, conscientious and smart plan for the redevelopment of the Limelite Lodge, and the Aspen City Council should do whatever it can to make it happen.The Limelite, currently a collection of buildings on the west side of Wagner Park, is one of the few choices visitors currently have for a midpriced hotel room in Aspen. But the Paas family believes it is time to replace the aging buildings.The family has therefore decided to renovate its properties and increase the number of available rooms from 110 to 128. Aspen needs more “hot beds” and this proposal would deliver more of them, and at a moderate price. The town currently loses visitors to downvalley hotels during high season because it doesn’t have enough rooms in real-world price ranges.The City Council is concerned about the buildings’ proposed 46-foot height, which is 4 feet over the city’s 42-foot height limit. Those 4 feet will allow the Paas family to get one full room out of every 500 square feet of property, which is exactly what the city has asked for.The council is also unhappy that free-market residential units compose 40 percent of the project. The limit is currently 25 percent. Paas representatives have explained that in order to keep their hotel rooms moderately priced, they need to be able to sell more free-market homes. The free-market component helps keep the lodge rooms affordable.We think these sticking points – the height variance and the free-market component – are a reasonable price for the community to pay for a project of this kind. This proposal makes sense for Aspen. The Paas family has worked diligently to create a redevelopment in keeping with the council’s broader wishes. If the Limelite owners need to go a little higher and sell a little more free-market real estate than the council would like, then perhaps it should make an exception.Aspen needs this kind of redevelopment much more than it needs fractional units, which is probably what will occupy this real estate if the Limelite plan fails.By the same token, if the city makes concessions for the Paas family, then it should have assurances that the rooms will stay within an agreed-upon price range. Thus far, the Paases have been unwilling to disclose details of their pricing plan.We hope that the two sides can come together and agree on a fair and appropriate formula at the next meeting on Aug. 8.