Deciding on proposal puts council in dilemma
Given the history of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal – especially the constant tweaking and modifying by the developers to suit the Aspen City Council’s wishes – we’re not too confident the final version will pass muster on Aug. 13.That’s when City Council is due to decide the fate of the 175,000-square-foot luxury hotel proposed below Lift 1A. Council members are put in the unenviable position of deciding on a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t project – which is probably why it’s been batted around for four years. If the City Council denies the proposal, developers have warned that they will build 14 townhomes in its place. They already have the approvals to do so, but virtually nobody, including the council and the general public, wants to see more vacant, high-end townhomes at the base of our flagship ski mountain.If City Council approves the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, Aspen would see its first new hotel built in 20 years. Developers say they will deed-restrict the 80 hotel rooms for 99 years, provide housing for the equivalent of nearly 128 of the hotel’s 190 full-time employees, and build 254 underground parking spaces. Additionally, the proposal calls for 21 fractional-lodging units, four whole-ownership units, 4,000 square feet of meeting space, a swimming pool and a restaurant.The proposal has not impressed Mayor Mick Ireland, who has said it is too big, comparing its size to 11 Pitkin County courthouses combined. Ireland also has reasoned that only 72 percent of the hotel’s work force would be housed, meaning Aspen’s housing deficit would grow even bigger.Ireland has a point, as do his colleagues who have bemoaned the noise and disruption that this project will cause. Even so, we feel City Council should seriously consider what is at stake here. Aspen’s guest-room base in the past decade has shrunk by more than 2,000 pillows as a result of market forces, government intervention and the surge of luxury townhomes and fractional-ownership development. The Lodge at Aspen Mountain would defy that trend, making the town more accessible for visitors.Furthermore, 14 more townhomes would do little, if anything, to stimulate a part of town – a secondary base area for Aspen Mountain, in fact – in dire need of a boost. The Lodge at Aspen Mountain, while not perfect, certainly beats that alternative.This project, and politics in general, is all about compromise. It seems to us that the developers have done what they can to meet the City Council halfway. We encourage our City Council to do the same.