Hotel Aspen overhaul gets continuance

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

A proposal to demolish and expand Hotel Aspen was continued Monday, after a number of residents spoke out against the project at the Aspen City Council’s first regular meeting of the year.

Though the motion calls for the proposal to be re-studied and then discussed on Feb. 10, Stan Clauson, representing the applicant, expressed doubt that anything can be achieved through the continuance. The original plan would have increased the cumulative floor space of the property from 21,344 square feet to 36,500 square feet, with residential space accounting for 11,000 of that. After the council reviewed original plans in December, the public urged the applicant to scale down two free-market residential duplexes in the proposal.

On Monday, Clauson presented a plan that reduced the proposed residential floor space by 500 square feet, while adding 700 square feet of lodging. That plan, he said, was the best the applicant could do, but he added that he is open to more discussion.

Steve Garcia, of the Bleeker Homeowners Association, said the expansion as presented would only benefit the applicant and not the neighborhood.

“The proposed architecture does not fit into the Victorian style that is prevalent in the West End,” he said.

While two other speakers spoke against the project, planner Sara Adams cited a handful of letters from additional residents who are opposed.

Councilman Adam Frisch said that in order to incentivize mid-priced lodging in Aspen, this is the sort of project that the public is going to have to buy into. He said that if the community cannot get behind it, Aspen might pay for it 10 years down the road by losing affordable lodging.

“This particular lodge, as well as the Molly Gibson, provide a specific type of lodging that’s important to Aspen,” Clauson said, adding that the redevelopment is possible only with the free-market residential component included.

The proposal would shrink the average room size from 370 square feet to 300, allowing for lower prices. Clauson said if the proposal is shot down, the alternative would be a smaller lodge with less amenities, something councilman Dwayne Romero said would be “self-defeating” to the city’s lodge-incentive program.

Romero stated that he is completely comfortable with the numbers Clauson presented, saying they technically conform to city code. However, he said, “Clearly, you have no public support.”

“An appropriate balance needs to be met between incentivizing lodging development and preserving neighborhood mass and scale,” Mayor Steve Skadron said. “As proposed tonight, I find this application sufficiently incompatible with the surrounding (residential zoning) neighborhood.”

Councilman Art Daily said that the two free-market duplexes, sized at 3,625 and 3,275 square feet, are well-beyond the 2,000 feet allowed. His preference, he said, would be for a design with smaller duplexes.

The council also made the motion to begin the process of eliminating the Growth Management Quota System deadline, which is scheduled for Feb. 15. If the deadline, which was put in place as a growth-control measure, is not met, the project would be stalled.