Council OKs package for Aspen’s small lodges |

Council OKs package for Aspen’s small lodges

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council unanimously approved an incentive program Tuesday geared toward preserving Aspen’s 12 small, moderately-priced lodges.

The program was originally pitched as Ordinance 19, a controversial set of lodging incentives that the council passed and then repealed in the face of public referendum in August. The ordinance included language that would have allowed requests for four-story lodges near Aspen Mountain, larger free-market residences, fee waivers and decreased affordable-housing requirements, among other incentives for developers.

The revamped version, dubbed the small-lodge preservation program, is reserved for 12 qualifying hotels in Aspen. The list includes the shuttered Boomerang Lodge, the Molly Gibson Lodge, Hotel Aspen, St. Moritz Lodge and Mountain Chalet, among others. Planners estimate the cost of the program, which sunsets in five years, to be between $1.5 and $2.3 million. Long range planner Jessica Garrow said the cost could reach as high as $7 million, but that’s only if every lodge participates in every aspect of the program, which staff considers highly unlikely. Garrow said it will take about $25,000 to get the program off the ground, and council can expect a more comprehensive request in the 2016 budget.

Program incentives include potential development-fee reductions, which are considered the biggest cost in the program. Other incentives include energy-efficiency rebates, free building-code assessments, an express lane for land-use and building-permit reviews and planning assistance.

The granting of fee reductions will be tied to “claw back” provisions, which will last between five and 20 years depending on the extent of participation in the program. That means if the participant converts to a use other than a lodge, they must return program funds to the city.

Describing the project as “very mild,” Community Development Director Chris Bendon said that in Aspen, it’s very attractive to convert these types of lodge parcels to residential uses. He added that because of land value, Aspen faces greater pressure in this area than other communities.

Mayor Steve Skadron described the program as an attempt to address the issue, while Councilman Adam Frisch said the community should be proud. He described the incentives as breaks, “not giveaways,” and said it’s time that Aspen invest in its “endangered” small lodges.