Council won’t put hotel on ballot | AspenTimes.com

Council won’t put hotel on ballot

ASPEN ” The Aspen City Council will not put the Lodge at Aspen Mountain on the ballot.

In a unanimous vote after an executive session late Monday, City Council members decided not to put the controversial hotel project before the voters. Mayor Mick Ireland was not present for the vote.

The lodge, slated for South Aspen Street near Lift 1A at the base of Aspen Mountain, failed by a 3-2 margin to gain approval during Monday’s regular City Council meeting. The decision prompted developer John Sarpa to request that the city refer the matter to a public vote.

“We wouldn’t have asked the council to do that if we didn’t believe that a majority of the people who can and would vote on the matter would support it,” Sarpa said Tuesday. “So obviously, we’re disappointed with their decision.”

But council members polled Tuesday said a proposal like the Lodge at Aspen Mountain was not appropriate for the ballot.

“I think it’s a really complicated application, and what will happen is a simple marketing campaign directed by [Centurion] featuring all the positive things about the project ” hotel rooms, a new lift … so let’s just get it done,” said Councilman Steve Skadron.

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“Turning over an application that is this complex and expecting the voters to make an informed decision, I don’t think that is the right decision,” he continued.

Councilman Dwayne Romero, who also voted in favor of the project on Monday, agreed. He also said the process had run its course and that it was “time to move on.”

“I felt like the process had been honored in four-plus years of review, with plenty of opportunity for all sides to be heard. … It has run its course,” he said. “Plus, it is a divisive issue; people seemed equally split for and against. And while some people would argue that’s exactly the climate for a city vote, I see it as the opposite. If there were a clear mandate for or against the project, and the council voted the opposite, that’s when there should be a vote.

“Again, the process was honored.”

Centurion Partners still could try to take the project, which they have revised numerous times since its inception more than four years ago, to the voters themselves through a ballot initiative. That strategy would require them to collect sufficient signatures from city voters to have the project placed on a ballot.

However, the ordinance the council rejected Monday could not be put before voters as it’s currently written. According to special city counsel James R. True, the ordinance includes both legislative and administrative matters; only legislative issues can be addressed through the initiative process.

Sarpa said he was unsure if Centurion would go in that direction.

“Right now, we’re just continuing to build our townhomes. Really all we can do right now is continue to build our townhomes while looking at other options,” he said.

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.