Council reviews annexation for Four Seasons

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Developers of a potential Four Seasons resort hotel on the 700 block of West Hopkins Avenue plan to have a free shuttle service to temper increased traffic on the road, which is a popular gateway for road cyclist and mountain bikers. This photo was taken in September.

One of the first of many steps in the annexation process for a Four Seasons Hotel takes place at a public hearing at tonight’s Aspen City Council meeting.

The council will review state laws concerning annexation rights for the owners of 705 W. Hopkins Ave., the Cisneros family, who are media giants in the Hispanic market. They are seeking government approval to fold 6.609 acres of their property into the city. The remaining 3.35 acres would remain in Pitkin County.

The land is currently zoned agricultural and residential in the county, part of their reason for seeking annexation into the city. Should the City Council ultimately approve the annexation, it also would be required to establish zoning for the area within 90 days of approval.

The county has little leverage in the process, County Manager Jon Peacock told commissioners in July. The city also is not legally bound to annexing the property even if the proposal satisfies state laws.

Some neighbors of the would-be five-star luxury resort, which is being proposed by developer Cisneros Real Estate, are closely watching the process. The proposal calls for 140 lodging units, 31 fractional-ownership units and four free-market units.

Two residents on Seventh Street and West Hopkins Avenue — the Four Seasons would be build at that corner — had similar view about the Four Seasons plans materializing.

Both, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it seems a long-shot the hotel will be built, chiefly because it would be built next to a vibrant pedestrian and bicyclist corridor that’s a gateway to popular trails and the roads to both Ashroft and the Maroon Bells. The property, however, is well within city’s Urban Growth Boundary.

“I think it is a disaster as far as traffic flow goes,” said one resident. “Hopkins is one of the city’s greatest achievements. We’ve been here 25 years, and it’s incredible how many people are using Hopkins and Seventh (to access the Marolt Bridge and pedestrian trails). When all this was put in, I don’t think people thought it could be so successful. Why ruin one of the truly terrific things the city has done?”

The other resident said it’s too early to make a judgment on the proposal, but with smart planning, a Four Seasons would be better than other developments such as town homes, for instance.

The property proposed for the development is hardly visible to the naked eye; tall trees surround the land that’s accessible by a private driveway. The three parcels at 705 W. Hopkins Ave., which includes a 6,491-square-foot Victorian-style home, account for $45,000 annually in property taxes, according to public records.

Monday’s meeting is the City Council’s follow-up to its July 13 hearing when it approved the first of a multi-step process for annexation of the land.

The public hearing will allow for comments from county staff members and elected officials, Aspen School District officials and other tax districts that could be impacted the annexation.

The hearing also will address whether the property is eligible for annexation under state land laws.

Annexation would not require a public election because “the landowners in the area to be annexed owning one hundred percent of the area to be annexed have signed the petition,” says a memo from city attorneys Jim True and Deborah Quinn to City Council.

The annexation discussion is the third and final item on the public-hearing portion of the City Council agenda. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. and will be held in City Council’s chambers in the basement of City Hall.