Council kills hotel plan
ASPEN The Aspen City Council pulled the plug on the Lodge at Aspen Mountain on Monday night.The controversial hotel, slated for South Aspen Street near Lift 1A, failed, 3-2, with councilmen Dwayne Romero and Steve Skadron voting in favor. It is the final time the proposal, which Centurion Partners revised numerous times since the projects inception more than four years ago, will go before the council.But it might not be the last time Aspenites hear of the project. After Mondays denial, developer John Sarpa requested that the city refer the matter to a public vote; a decision on whether to do so was to be discussed in executive session, which continued past press time.Not all matters should go to the public, Sarpa told the council, but with the support of P&Z, staff and citizens, and the divisiveness its caused in the community, it is absolutely appropriate for this matter to go to the public at large.Indeed, the Lodge at Aspen Mountain has been a focal point of public discussion for years. It was first conceived four years ago and has been revised numerous times, gaining the support of the Planning and Zoning Commission, city staff, neighbors and local businesses. And in a marathon meeting Monday, the five-member City Council and a standing-room-only crowd heard arguments in favor of and against the projects latest incarnation. Among other changes, most prompted by council requests and objections of residents aired during numerous meetings and public hearings, was a reduction in the overall size and scale of the project. Specifically, the total square footage was reduced from 175,000 to 151,000, and one floor was taken off a substantial portion of the project, which led to fewer hotel rooms (from 80 units to 73) and fewer parking spaces (254 to 224); the number of fractional units increased from 21 to 25. In addition, Centurion said it would house 100 percent of its estimated 170 employees. It once had agreed to house 60 percent, and more recently upped that percentage to 73.But the promise of housing developed at no cost to the city on parcels in town and at the Aspen Business Center that are under contract by Centurion still was not enough to sway the council majority. We cannot be blinded by the affordable housing figures, said Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss. It is a stumbling block and a risk we cannot take.But Sarpa argued that the risk fell on the shoulders of Centurion, not the city. In fact, the ordinance tied Centurions certificate of occupancy to its ability to provide the level of employee housing it promised.We are willing to take the risk, Sarpa said. If we dont get the housing, we dont get a project.This is unprecedented and exceptional, Romero said. When the resort prospers, the community prospers. This project would preserve and enhance all the ideas of the Aspen way of life.Many in the audience agreed. Representatives from at least three neighboring homeowners associations spoke in support of the hotel, and others argued that building townhomes instead of a lodge would only perpetuate the areas lack of vitality. (Centurion already has approval to build 14 townhomes and 17 affordable-housing units on 2.4 acres where the Mine Dump apartments sat for years.)Still others argued that the Lodge was simply too massive for the Lift 1A side of the mountain and that a master plan for the area should be in place before moving ahead with any development. They also questioned the impact the development would have during construction and on an ongoing basis.Jeanne McGoverns e-mail address is email@example.com
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