Council continues debate over Limelite
The struggle between maintaining Aspen’s old charm and revitalizing parts of town took center stage at Monday’s City Council meeting.The redevelopment of the Limelite Lodge, Snowflake Inn and Deep Powder properties was the first project the City Council considered under new code amendments designed to rejuvenate lodging in Aspen. More than 40 people sat through a six-hour meeting to voice their support of, or opposition to, the proposed 125-room lodge and 17-unit, free-market residential project at the corner of Monarch Street and Cooper Avenue. In the end, council moved to continue the discussion to Feb. 6.Neighboring property owners spoke out against the height, mass and density of the two-building project – one lodging and one residential – saying the development would be the first of many to take away from the small-town, historic feel of the neighborhood.”My fear is that this is the beginning of a trend to move massive buildings north of Durant,” said Kathy Pitner, an owner at 210 Cooper. “If this gets approval, it will become a precedent. We will see it move down Main Street. It will change the nature of our town. I can’t believe we have to have something that looks like Vail in Aspen.”After conceptual reviews, the project’s developers decreased heights in the residential portion – from 48 feet to 42 feet and lower – by removing the partial fourth floor. The gable roof decreased from 50 feet to 40 feet, bringing the building to varying heights of 28 to 42 feet. The proposed lodge would rise to 45 feet at its highest. The code allows up to 42 feet.In December, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the project with the condition of a 10 to 15 percent height reduction, and most council members agreed. Developers opposed the recommendation.”As a blanket statement, after already taking off a whole floor … we can’t accommodate that,” said developer John Cottle. But neighbors don’t like the canyon feel they think the development will create.”No matter what architectural features it has, it still reads as one big brick wall,” said neighbor Melissa Shennan. “Buildings of this mass seem inappropriate to Aspen.”Resident Shellie Roy supported the height during the public hearing, saying hotels such as the Jerome have high ceilings.”I’m becoming embarrassed of the buildings we built in the ’50s and ’60s,” Roy said. “Don’t lower ceilings to less than 8 feet.”Beyond height issues, neighbors said the project would create construction noise and inconveniences and possibly disturb trees and nearby foundations. Bob Leatherman, president of the 210 Cooper homeowners association, asked for written agreements about snow removal and delivery truck access for the development.Council members expressed concerns about the lack of pedestrian-oriented setbacks, the dead-end alley and the fact that the residential building is tall and makes up 40 percent of the project. If the residential component came before the City Council unattached to the lodging proposal, codes would limit its height to 20 feet. “I think this is two different projects, and you’re just shoehorning the south parcel in so you can build condos higher,” said Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss.But others supported the project, stating the need for moderately priced lodging.”We can’t bring new blood into this community unless we have mid-priced hotels,” said Carol Riley, a lodging manager and 27-year valley resident.Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, pointed out there are only five economy lodges left in Aspen; when he moved to the valley in 1995, there were 22.Though the council supported the overall plan of adding moderately priced hotel rooms, it denied owner Dale Paas’ request to accept the project, or at least continue discussing it Monday night.”We’re close to out of money,” Paas said. “We’ve been dealing with this for longer than we can afford. We don’t have deep pockets, and someone else might own it when we go away.”Kimberly Nicoletti’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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