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Full answers on the fractional question

As part of The Aspen Times’ election coverage, we have asked all 11 candidates to answer questions about various issues facing the city. We’ve grouped the mayoral candidates in with the City Council candidates because they all sit on the same board and make decisions on the same issues. We will conclude this portion of our election coverage tomorrow, in the Sunday edition of The Aspen Times. Today’s question: Can Aspen remain a viable resort if its lodge rooms continue to be converted to time shares and condominiums? What, if anything, should the city do to stop this trend?Name: TorrePosition sought: MayorMy thoughts on this topic are well-known on City Council and with staff. I have disagreed with the conversions that have happened and have taken steps in my term to help the lodges in town to remain viable and grow. I believe that short-term, mid-priced pure lodge beds are very important to our community and resort economy. It was my suggestion on council to create a lodge zone, removing the tourist residential from the L/TR zoning. Because of this we have been working with local lodge owners to create an incentive package that will aid in the redevelopment and increase of hotel rooms. We have retained tight development codes and given the allowances to support the local lodges. We need these types of lodges to share the Aspen experience with a new young Aspen guest, a market that fractionals and condos can exclude. This is another example of the leadership and community vision that I can bring to the mayor’s office. Please vote Torre for Mayor. Name: Helen KlanderudPosition sought: MayorQuality and diversity in our lodging inventory are essential to the vitality and attractiveness of our resort. Currently, a new lodge ordinance is before council that provides significant incentives to lodges to renovate, rebuild, and expand as lodges. The real issue is not form of ownership, but the erosion of our lodging base over time. The city cannot eliminate fractional ownerships or condominium hotels, because the city cannot discriminate among forms of ownership. However, the city’s Timeshare Ordinance was approved in 2002, to provide sufficient regulation to ensure that fractional developments provide lodging and revenue benefits to the city. Conversion of lodges to timeshares or condominiums is only an issue if these are used only as residences a few weeks a year and are not available for lodging rental. The goal is heads in beds regardless of the form of ownership. Name: Bert Myrin Position sought: MayorThe concern is the secondary impacts that the conversion of lodge rooms to time shares and condominiums causes. For example, the conversion generates such significant wealth for the sellers that the time shares and their sales offices are able to outbid and displace retailers and nightclubs thereby sapping vitality from our community (Aspen Drug, Eddie Bauer, Club Soda, Tippler). The city should create incentives to enable retailers, restaurants and nightclubs to displace time share sales offices. If time shares are carried to an extreme such that there are no lodge rooms available to the public, Aspen essentially becomes a gated community – you will need to own a piece of Aspen to visit here. The city should create incentives for conversions that look, feel and operate just as if they were a hotel when approached by the public either locally or via advanced bookings. Name: Terry PaulsonPosition sought: MayorTime share (fractional ownership) will only hurt the Aspen lodging market. They are aimed at the wealthy, which results in Aspen turning into a private gated community. We must resist this trend. We have been losing the middle class for years. This will only exacerbate the situation. The time-share market has eroded into a late-night television buy-sell-trade advertising. One has to wonder if this will not eventually happen to Aspen. Selling our town on late night television. Fractional ownership is a relatively new concept and not thoroughly time-tested. These units make large amounts of money for the original investor but the community is hung with the consequences.Name: Marcia GoshornPosition sought: City CouncilThere is a term in the lodging industry called the a hot bed. That means that it is a bed available for the short-term guest. The time shares actually create a hot bed that has a higher occupancy rate than most hotels. It gives the opportunity for families that cannot afford the $2 million homes and condominiums the ability to plan an annual vacation to Aspen. The approval process also requires that the unit must be available for rental to the general public when not in use by the owner of that week and that process has worked well for more than 20 years at the Prospector and The Shadow Mountain Lodge, so the concept is not new to Aspen. We need to find a way to make it financially feasible for the older lodges to upgrade and redevelop with additional rental units in order for them to compete in today’s economy and that can be done with land use codes that encourage, not penalize, someone that had a vested interest in this community.Name: Jack JohnsonPosition sought: City CouncilAs a planning and zoning commissioner I have often asked this question myself. If this trend continues Aspen can be viable as a resort but it will not be vital. The jury is still out on fractionals (time shares) – perhaps the occupancy rate will be higher. It is my intention as a councilor to track the occupancy rate and ensure fractionals, when not used by the owner, are placed in the lodging pool at an affordable rate. My bigger concern is vitality. We wish to continue hosting the X Games in an effort to market Aspen to a younger skier/snowboarder but where do we intend for these kids to sleep? Tents in Wagner Park? We must have a varied mix of lodging and are now implementing code changes to encourage the preservation and creation of smaller, and it is hoped more affordable, lodge rooms. We must continue to be vigilant, responsive and constructive.Name: Andrew KolePosition sought: City CouncilThe business of today’s resort developer is the conversion to fractional and condominium ownership. Fighting this change is a waste of time; what we need to do is work with it. The problem Aspen faces is our steadily declining visitor bed base. Today’s resort developer has identified a new trend, fractional ownership, and embraced it. In reality, fractional ownership is a new kind of hotel where the occupants have a vested interest. This investment entices the “owners” to come back year after year. It ensures an extremely high occupancy rate for the bed base they create. By working with the current and developing lodge community we have an opportunity to embrace a new way to do business, an opportunity to be leaders in the business of fractional development, an opportunity to build our bed base back up, an opportunity to create a new vitality for Aspen.Name: Dee MalonePosition sought: City CouncilThe jury is still out regarding the investment consequences of time share conversion projects. Consequently we should have a “go-slow” policy with regard to these conversion developments while we study the economic effects. Meanwhile we should be investing the one-time conversion fee into an endowment type fund with the revenue stream dispersed slowly over many years rather than used up in one year’s budget. These conversions may also have significant impacts to community character. One consequence of time share conversions is the loss of rental beds. Those wonderful lodge beds will no longer be enjoyed by the average person who is out exploring the West by car and happens through Aspen on an autumn day. On the other hand, the time share properties may spread out bed use throughout the year due to the large pool of time share owners so that Aspen becomes more of a year-round resort. Name: Cliff WeissPosition sought: City CouncilFor the last 16 years I have been producing marketing promotions for the hospitality industry in Mexico and the Caribbean. Although relatively new to Aspen, fractional ownership, time share and club membership have been a part of the marketing picture in other resorts for many years. For Aspen, these types of marketing have an effect on tax revenue that should continue to be analyzed. However, we should allow market forces to dictate what hotels build. Hotels build for the perceived demand. If the demand for fractional ownership and units with large square footage dries up, the hotels will convert their large units into whatever the guests demand next. You see it all the time, presently spas are the craze. Just look to the St. Regis.Name: J.E. DeVilbissPosition sought: City CouncilI am philosophically predisposed toward lodge rooms rather than time shares and condominiums, because I see lodge rooms as more within the reach of young people and young families whom I want to see come to Aspen. I want children to grow up remembering “I learned to ski at Aspen,” and I do not believe most young families can enjoy Aspen by entering at the significant six-figure dollar level for two weeks that timeshares require. However, if I am elected and if I learn that a different scenario is realistic, I will be open-minded and consider modifying my philosophical bent. I am honestly not sure exactly what the city can do to stop the trend toward time shares and condominiums. My research so far tells me that the city’s ability to control or stop the trend toward converting lodge rooms to condominiums and time shares may be quite limited. I will continue to explore this option, however.Name: Pepper GomesPosition sought: City CouncilThe city should be very cautious in its attempts to control the business community and its growth. It is not the government’s place to tell an owner how to operate his business. The owner knows what is best for his success. I know that smacks of freedom of choice, but we should allow current business trends to run their course without fear and loathing. The town will find its own equilibrium, as it has over the past 130 years.


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