Green Drake stymied by moratorium |

Green Drake stymied by moratorium

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

BASALT ” An ownership group that planned to redevelop a downtown Basalt hotel is trying to regroup in the wake of Town Council’s approval of an emergency moratorium earlier this month.

In March, the owners of the Green Drake Inn submitted an application to Basalt town government to replace the 25-room hotel with 10,000 square feet of retail and office space, 22 residential units, which included six employee housing units, and underground parking.

The town planning staff requested additional information from the developers in April. Once that information was submitted, the project was deemed complete and eligible for review in May. The development team was scheduled to meet with the town’s technical review committee on June 19.

However, the Town Council decided in a closed session on Monday, June 9, that it wanted to consider a moratorium on review of new applications to provide more time to work on additional rules regulating development. The next night, the council approved a nine-month moratorium. That freezes the review of most major projects that don’t already have the first round of approvals from the town.

The Green Drake review was frozen by the moratorium. It’s the only major application that was submitted and affected by the moratorium, said Basalt Town Manager Bill Efting.

“To us it feels really unfair,” said Mitch Haas, the planner for the Green Drake developers.

Haas said the Green Drake application has several great attributes ” chief among them is the downtown location, meaning its development won’t promote sprawl.

“It is right where they want growth to occur,” he said.

In addition, the proposal provides new office and retail space in the downtown core. Town officials have feared that the development of the Willits Town Center, located 4 miles away in the part of Basalt closer to El Jebel, would syphon commercial uses out of the core.

The project also provides affordable housing and dedicated parking as contemplated in Basalt’s master plan, Haas said.

Mike Tierney, a principal in the Green Drake ownership group, was reluctant to comment on the situation because of the need to work with town officials.

“We’re sort of weighing our options here,” he said.

There is an administrative appeal process that would allow the owners to make a pitch to the Town Council for exemption from the moratorium. Tierney said he wasn’t certain his group would take that step.

Ironically, the town government is willing to review applications that would increase the size of the town through annexation, but it won’t consider applications for redevelopment or infill within the existing town boundaries.

Council members explained on June 24 that they have more control over annexation requests, so they are willing to exempt them from the moratorium.

Tierney’s group purchased the Green Drake in late 2006 for $4.4 million.

Haas and Tierney said they met repeatedly with town staff members to refine their application before they submitted it in March. That cooperative approach may have come back to bite them by chewing up more time before review started.

“It’s a shame to be caught where we are,” Tierney said.