Council sends hotel back to drawing board
ASPEN The proposed Lodge at Aspen Mountain won over environmentalists, neighbors and some key players in the local hospitality and skiing industry, but it couldn’t win over two members of the Aspen City Council on Monday night.And that’s all it took to send developers, after some four years of negotiating with City Hall, back to the drawing board.”We were hopeful [the project would pass] given the very strong public sentiment,” said John Sarpa, a member of the development team composed of Centurion Partners and Aspen Land Fund II LLC.Developers were seeking to build a 175,000-square-foot lodge, which would sit on the western side of Aspen Mountain and include 56 standard hotel rooms averaging 527 square feet – up from the 39 rooms previously proposed. Also proposed were another 21 fractional units, to be sold in one-eighth interests, four free-market condominiums averaging 4,000 square feet each, and 16 on-site employee housing units and a combined 37 off-site units – including 28 at the unbuilt Smuggler Racquet Club and nine at the Aspen Business Center.But Councilmen Torre and J.E. DeVilbiss, while praising certain components of the project, told developers the proposal simply was just too big to support. Among their concerns were that the free-market condos were too big, while developers countered that they were necessary to make it financially viable. “This project still needs work,” said Torre, echoing DeVilbiss’ concerns that the project’s mass, as well as the construction it would produce, would put a strain on the community.”The scale is much beyond what I can support, and I can’t impose this on this town,” DeVilbiss said. Mayor Helen Klanderud voted in favor of the project, but it didn’t matter because only three of the five council members voted on the project. At least three votes are needed to pass a city ordinance, and the other council members, Jack Johnson and Jasmine Tygre, recused themselves because of conflicts. Tygre sat on the Planning & Zoning Commission that reviewed the application, and Johnson lives in an apartment that would be razed and replaced by the project. Developers will return to council with another proposal on May 14, and it likely will need to be scaled down from the most recent pitch in order to get the City Council’s blessing.They already have a formidable contingent in their corner. Among them are hospitality officials such as Bill Tomcich, president of central reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass, as well as Mountain Chalet General Manager Stan Hajenga. Both praised the project at last night’s meeting, saying it would be a big boost to Aspen’s hotel base, which is becoming increasingly threatened by fractional-ownership units and condos. Jim Hancock, Aspen’s chief of race for the World Cup, which finishes in the area where the lodge would be built, commended the project as well. Developers also said they would pay up to $4 million for a new lift to replace the older Lift 1A, located in the immediate area of the project. “To have [the lodge] right at the base is a huge advantage for World Cup,” Hancock said.And if that wasn’t enough, two of the area’s biggest environmental voices – Auden Schendler and Dan Richardson – gave the project ringing endorsements. “This is the most impressive project the valley has seen … extremely progressive,” said Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co.’s executive director of community and environmental responsibility.Richardson, the city’s formal global warming manager, agreed, complimenting developers for vowing to use 30 percent less energy than what similar developments use, and purchasing carbon offsets if the situation warranted it, among other “green” initiatives.Likewise, Torre and DeVilbiss lauded developers for their environmental efforts, but it wasn’t enough to sway them.Sarpa, growing frustrated as Torre and DeVilbiss voiced their objections, said there is not much more that can be done to improve the project. Several times he mentioned that the process has gone on for four years.”If we want a new hotel at the base of our mountain, this is as good as it gets,” he said. Apparently it will have to get even better.DeVilbiss, often deeming the project “huge” during his explanation for his rejection, called the potential construction impacts of the project “staggering.”DeVilbiss and Torre also took issue with the construction of two underground garages that would accommodate 264 parking spaces.”I see the parking spaces as a traffic generator,” DeVilbiss said.Rick Carroll’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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