Grand Aspen plan to be considered on its own merits |

Grand Aspen plan to be considered on its own merits

Sarah S. Chung

Given the long history of the Aspen Mountain Subdivision application, the housing board and the applicant agreed a fresh start would be the best approach for the proposal’s second phase.

The first plan was submitted in 1983 for a single luxury hotel that would be completed in two phases. By the time Aspen voters approved the Ritz-Carlton, now the St. Regis Hotel, the original application was amended to include two separate hotels.

Savanah Limited Partnership, which is attempting to build the second hotel, is now proposing to replace the Grand Aspen with a 150-room, “upscale-but-not-luxury” hotel.

But given the time that has lapsed, the changed building codes, and the different circumstances that surrounded the approval of the Ritz, both sides agreed that the new hotel application should be considered on its own merits.

At the start of last night’s Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority meeting, Savanah and the housing staff disagreed on how many employees the new hotel would generate. To settle the difference, both agreed to use Savanah’s employee projection as long as an audit is later conducted to make sure the estimation was correct.

Those were the only two points agreeable to both Savanah and a majority of the housing board.

One idea suggested by City Attorney John Worcester was to put a penalty into the audit, so if Savanah’s employee projection is off by a certain percentage, an additional housing requirement would be automatically required.

Housing board chairman Frank Peters supported the concept as one that would ensure the applicant is as meticulous as possible in its projection.

“In order to use Savanah’s numbers, we need to have an audit. But we need to have an audit with teeth,” Peters said.

Savanah’s John Sarpa objected, saying his company was being subjected to a more onerous standard.

“This goes a lot farther than it goes with any other applicant,” Sarpa said. “At some level we’d like to be treated somewhat equally.”

There was discussion that if, on the other hand, Savanah overestimates the number of employees, the company could receive a housing credit. But no recommendation was made.

The next meeting on the hotel proposal will be June 7. At that time, the housing credit issue and further discussion on whether Savanah should be allowed to use the Bavarian Inn for housing will be further debated.

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