Council: Base2 a workable project
The Aspen Times
Aspen City Council’s majority said Tuesday night that it would like to work with developer Mark Hunt in seeing his Main Street lodge concept, Base2, come to fruition.
The project includes variance and variation requests on floor area and lot-line setbacks. The city’s legal department has stated that because Hunt’s plan was submitted before certification of the May 5 election, it will not be subject to Referendum 1, a Home Rule Charter amendment that registered Aspen’s electorate as the final review authority for land-use variances on height, mass, parking, affordable housing and viewplanes.
Council’s message to Hunt was that his plan to build the 32-foot-tall, 15,900-square-foot Base2 lodge is workable. The height meets zoning requirements, while the floor area exceeds the 7,500-square-foot limit. Hunt also has requested to forgo all setback requirements and build to each lot line. The majority of council found that the floor area is acceptable, while asking Hunt to consider creating a rear setback.
“It is compatible with Carl’s (Pharmacy) and does somewhat mirror what’s going on a block away,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said of the building.
Councilman Adam Frisch said affordable lodging is a definite need in Aspen, which is why he sees flexibility in this area, while Councilman Dwayne Romero suggested a setback compromise. Councilman Art Daily called Base2 a courageous proposal, one that will bring vitality to Aspen, but he suggested Hunt’s parking plan needs work. Mayor Steve Skadron said his thoughts parallel those of the rest of council, though he’s sensitive to the adjacent neighborhood.
The vast majority of Tuesday’s public comments were in support of Base2, with longtime resident Phyllis Bronson telling the council that if Aspen passes on this affordable-lodging proposal, it won’t see another for a long time.
Referendum sponsor Cavanaugh O’Leary said he was watching the discussion at home when he decided to speak up at City Hall for the other side. One sticking point with the project, he said, is Hunt’s request to provide parking for the hotel through 12 off-site spaces when code calls for 20 off-street spots. O’Leary said it’s “absurd” to provide lodging without parking.
The 39-room Base2 would serve as a sister hotel to Hunt’s 42-room Base1, a Cooper Avenue lodge concept that won unanimous Aspen City Council approval in February. Hunt has contended that he can’t build one without the other, as no reputable hotel manager will operate less than 80 rooms. On Tuesday, Hunt guaranteed that he can build 80 new rooms by December 2016. He also questioned whether May’s election results really mean Aspen has made up its mind on variances.
“I’m hearing the people have spoken,” Hunt said. “To me I don’t know that they have spoken. I look at it and say, ‘Roughly a third of the people showed up during the election, and roughly half of them voted for the referendum.’ That’s roughly 1,000 people out of 6,000.”
The referendum passed officially by a 1,300 to 1,145 margin, or 53 percent of the votes, with total voter turnout tallied at 2,542.
Hunt’s planner on the project, Mitch Haas, said referendum sponsors would have Aspen wrongly believe that its zoning code if infallible.
“It wasn’t handed down from Mount Sinai and engraved in stone,” Haas said, adding that officials need to consider the site’s context, which sits at the junction between the mixed-use zone and the commercial-core zone.
Hunt’s application presents two options for Base2: the original gable-roof design, which he shied away from in January, and a flat-roof design, which is four feet shorter but similar in floor area. Both Base1 and Base2, Hunt has said, will feature rooms sized around 200 square feet and rates around $200 a night.
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The city of Aspen and Pitkin County are partnering to buy a 274-acre tract of land off McLain Flats for $10 million on property owned by longtime residents Carolyn and Tom Moore.