Eagle County’s nod on hotel ignores wishes of citizens | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County’s nod on hotel ignores wishes of citizens

The Eagle County commissioners ignored citizens and its planning commission for the Roaring Fork Valley Monday by approving a project that proposes El Jebel’s first hotel.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to grant sketch-plan approval for a project called Kodiak Park, centered around the private water ski pond across Highway 82 from the El Jebel City Market. The project still must earn two more sets of approvals before it can be built.

Commissioners Tom Stone, James Johnson and Johnnette Phillips granted approvals that include a hotel of up to 50 or 60 rooms.

The original proposal submitted by Ace and Jennifer Lane included an 80-room, 80,000-square-foot hotel with 100 parking spaces.

The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, whose members are from the midvalley, gave Kodiak Park a generally favorable review on Nov. 18 – with the exception of the hotel. They voted 4-1 to advise the commissioners to approve the project with the condition that “there shall be no hotel on the site.”

The handful of Roaring Fork Valley citizens who made the 60-mile drive to the Eagle County Courthouse to comment on the project Monday echoed that view.

The planning commission “has a feel for what the community is like,” said Barbara Brevetti, a resident of the Laura J. Estates neighborhood in the hills above Kodiak Park. She said the hotel would still be too large even if scaled down to 60 rooms. She also questioned the need for convention and meeting space at the hotel, which the developer said would be used for parties and weddings.

“I have trouble believing El Jebel is going to become a destination resort,” said Brevetti. “I wouldn’t want to tell people I got married at El Jebel. I really wouldn’t.”

The hotel opposition was backed by three other speakers and in three letters from midvalley residents who couldn’t attend the meeting. Eric Brucker wrote that the hotel is “an out of place monstrosity.”

The county planning staff also outlined problems with the hotel. A staff memo noted that it was proposed at a site designated “countryside” in land-use planning documents.

“The hotel does not lend itself to maintaining the rural character normally associated with this land-use designation,” the memo said.

Project architect Glenn Rappaport lobbied for the hotel by explaining his clients had stopped negotiations with a potential operator who had been pushing a larger version of between 80 and 100 units.

“We decided it was a little too much building for our space,” said Rappaport.

Rappaport said the hotel could be pared down to 60 units. The planning staff’s memo said the developers’ representatives indicated the hotel could be pared down to 50 units.

The commissioners didn’t let a discrepancy of 10 rooms bother them during their deliberations. They granted approval of the hotel with no clarification on specific size.

When asked after the meeting if their approval went against the planning commission’s recommendation, commissioners James Johnson and Tom Stone said they believed the scaled-down version met the planning commission’s concerns.

The commissioners did not send that scaled-down version back to the planning commission for review. The planning commission’s comments do not suggest the potential acceptability of a smaller hotel.

In addition to the hotel, Kodiak Park will include 27 residences, seven short-term rental cabins around the lake and a mixed-use building that combines artists’ studios and workshops with residences on an upper floor. About 182 acres of the Lanes’ 206-acre Wind River Ranch will remain open space, according to their land-use planner, Glenn Horn.

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