Gorsuch Haus developers eye new zone, lower heights

Developers of the proposed Gorsuch Haus are eyeing another rezone of the property at the base of Aspen Mountain to appease the project’s critics and the decision makers on City Council. That means they’ll be lowering the height and making other adjustments in time for the project’s next public hearing in March.

Project spokesman Allyn Harvey said Thursday developer Norway Island LLC is no longer aiming to rezone it from the existing “conservation” district to a “ski area base” zone district, which it pitched to the City Council on Monday. Instead, Norway will ask the City Council to consider rezoning the 6-plus-acre, four-parcel property to a lodging district.

Aspen Skiing Co. owns the land considered for the 67-room Gorsuch Haus, which would be erected near Lift 1A at the end of South Aspen Street. With the council’s approval of the project, Skico would convey the property to Norway. Skico also would replace the Lift 1A two-seater, built in 1972, with a new lift located 66 feet higher than the current one.

At this week’s hearing, council members said they want the project to work but aren’t satisfied with its current rendition. The project is too big, from its maximum height of 48 feet to having a gross mass of more than 127,000 square feet, and is out of step with the mountain’s lower west side, they concluded.

The new lift’s proposed location also remains a nagging concern for critics of the project. Some have said it would essentially “privatize” the western base of the mountain because of its limited access to the public.

Yet with the new zoning that will be proposed, Harvey said the developers are listening and acting on concerns levied by both residents and city officials.

“The Community Development staff has written that the site was well-suited for lodging and also the emphasized neighborhood context,” Harvey said. “We wanted to make sure that City Council shared the same perception of what was appropriate for the site. Once we received similar feedback from council, we felt like we had direction to start making appropriate changes.”

The Gorsuch Haus would not be eligible for development under the current conservation zoning restrictions, which “provide areas of low-density development to enhance public recreation, conserve natural resources, encourage the production of crops and animals and to contain urban development,” according to the city’s definition.

The developer would either seek a “lodging” or “commercial lodging” zone district, Harvey said.

Both zones have maximum heights of 36 feet for lodges, which can be increased to 40 feet through a commercial design review.

The Gorsuch Haus’ highest point would approach 48 feet under its most recent proposal.

“There would be reduced height,” Harvey said, noting that “everything is a guess right now” in terms of the changes Norway will bring to council next month.

The ski base area, or “SKI,” district, would have given Norway more flexibility with the hotel’s dimensions. Dimensional requirements are not specified under the SKI zone, which sets heights during the final development plan of a project.

“We still think the SKI zone is a good district for this,” Harvey said. “But if it’s not going to happen we need to do what we can with a lodge zone district.”