Aspen Four Seasons developers back out of city annexation
Developers on Thursday withdrew their application to annex residential land into Aspen city limits for the development of a Four Seasons luxury hotel.
Both the president of Florida-based Cisneros Real Estate, which owns the three-parcel property at 705 W. Hopkins Ave. eyed for annexation and the four-star resort hotel, and attorneys notified city officials with letters about the withdrawal.
The decision was announced less than a week after a group against the hotel, Look After Aspen, began soliciting donations through an email blast to Aspen residents. Additionally, a closed group on Facebook, Aspen Against the Four Seasons Hotel, was in opposition.
The annexation of the property, which is in Pitkin County, was scheduled to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday and to the Aspen City Council on Oct. 10.
Patrick S. Freeman, president of Cisneros Real Estate, acknowledged in a letter to Jessica Garrow, director of the Community Development Department, and Jim True, the city attorney, that the local development climate was at odds with his company’s objectives.
Since 2015, Aspen voters defeated developer Mark Hunt’s Base2 Lodge on Main Street and approved a referendum that restricted the City Council’s flexibility on granting variances and concessions to developers. Also, the City Council, reacting to the contentious climate, passed emergency legislation in March freezing the filing of all land-use applications in commercially zoned districts. The moratorium, which gives the city time to match its land-use code with the Aspen Area Community Plan, expires at the end of February.
“We concur that the timing is not right for a major annexation to go before the City Council,” Freeman’s letter said. “The challenges facing this community are ones that we are committed to helping solve through thoughtful collaboration. We believe allowing the city time to align its land-use code with the Aspen Area Community Plan and to address the concerns that led to the current moratorium are necessary first steps in this collaborative process.”
Freeman also expressed desire on behalf of Cisneros to “challenge ourselves to ensure that our vision contributes to the community fabric of Aspen both in the short and long term. We remain committed to that vision.”
Freeman was vacationing and could not be reached for further comment. R.J. Gallagher, the Aspen spokesman for the project, said there would be no additional comments about Cisneros Real Estate’s future plans for the property.
Members of the City Council also were notified about the withdrawal by Holland & Hart, the law firm representing applicants Starford Investments LLC, Westchester Investments Inc. and Shadow Mountain Corp. Each party had applications to subdivide the three properties at the 6.6-acre site considered for annexation.
“There is a god” and “far out!” were among the responses offered on an email string among members of Look After Aspen.
City Councilwoman Ann Mullins, around the time the announcement became official, said in the same email thread: “Between the applicant being confronted by your group and a sooner-than-anticipated appearance before council about annexation, I suspect the applicant may rethink or withdraw their application if they haven’t already. And I just got a phone call confirming that the application has (been withdrawn).”
Cisneros filed plans with the city in May calling for four buildings with 118 lodging units, 22 fractional-ownership units, four free-market residences and affordable housing for as many as 80 tenants.
The property, zoned residential in the county, was part of a greater 19.6-acre swath of land. Annexation into the city would have paved the way for developers to ask for the land to be zoned for lodging, affordable housing and planned development.
The cumulative area for the floor area for the Four Seasons’ lodge, free-market units, fractional units, restaurant and spa called for 181,974 square feet, according to the application. The affordable-housing component’s floor area totalled 24,018 square feet.
The application also included a 133-space, two-level, subground parking garage. Traffic on the busy thoroughfare of West Hopkins Avenue, which serves as a gateway to road and mountain-bike routes as well as pedestrian-friendly routes to the Aspen School District campus and Aspen Valley Hospital, would have been mitigated by a high-frequency shuttle service to downtown Aspen with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the application said.
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Written pleadings filed Monday in district court by the Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance seek a court decision requiring the defendants — the county, the board of health and interim director — to answer their complaint by Thursday and hold a court hearing on the matter as early as Friday.