Council says no to Lodge
ASPEN The City Council shot down a proposed hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain early Tuesday, leaving developers to either build townhomes or let the voters to decide this fall.The Aspen City Council, in its first vote on a major development proposal, shot down the project in a 3-to-2 vote after more than six hours of discussion, deliberation and public comment that extended Monday’s meeting into the wee hours of Tuesday.Mayor Mick Ireland was the swing vote; he ultimately voted to deny the project, saying the community just can’t handle another massive development project. Councilmen Dwayne Romero and Steve Skadron were in favor of the project, saying it would revitalize an area of town that’s been ignored and pump more lodging rooms into a resort that needs it. Councilmen Jack Johnson and J.E. DeVilbiss rejected the project, arguing that the impacts are far too great for the community. Centurion Partners, the developers of the property, already has approval to build 14 townhomes and 17 affordable housing units on 2.4 acres where the Mine Dump apartments sit today on South Aspen Street.John Sarpa, a principal of Centurion, asked the City Council within a minute after denying the proposal to consider taking it to the voters as a referendum so they can decide whether building an 80-room, 175,000-square-foot hotel with 21 fractional-ownership units and four free-market condos is a good idea.The City Council agreed to consider it at its next meeting on Aug. 27. The deadline to place measures on the ballot is Sept. 7.Ireland and Johnson said they support lodging at the base of the mountain and prefer it over townhomes that will likely sit empty most of the year. They said they would have approved something smaller.”I beg the applicant to consider two-thirds the development,” Ireland said. “I ask, beg and implore to make it smaller.”Sarpa said that after four years of going through the review process and changing the project significantly based on feedback from the community, the Planning and Zoning Commission, past City Councils and the current one, he can’t make the economics work if the hotel is any smaller.”We can’t. … We would’ve if we could,” he said. “We’ve done our best.”Sarpa and his partners upped the affordable housing allotment. They proposed housing 138 employees, which represents 87.6 percent housed, according to city staff’s interpretation of the land-use code. Sarpa estimates the number of employees housed is 72.6 percent of its total work force.But City Council members didn’t buy Centurion’s representation that will employ only 190 people. In reality, the development will generate hundreds of more jobs, council members suggested, and housing 138 people would only be a drop in the bucket.As far as community benefits are concerned, the City Council criticized the proposal for not offering enough, saying it needs to be more inclusive. In response, Centurion proposed that every Aspen resident will get a 20 percent discount on the hotel’s services – such as bar and food bills, and spa services.Other components of the hotel include 254 underground public parking spaces, 50 of which are public; wider sidewalks on a snowmelted South Aspen Street, $4 million toward a new high-speed quad chairlift to replace lift 1A and shuttle service from the gondola to the mountain’s west side, among other offerings.Centurion also offered to deed-restrict the hotel rooms for 99 years, meaning the rooms couldn’t convert into fractional-ownership units or condos during that period.Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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