Hotel developers employ new strategy
ASPEN Capitalizing on possible technicalities in city politics, the developers of a hotel project at the base of Aspen Mountain opted to delay review until a new City Council takes office.Convinced that the Lodge at Aspen Mountain would not get unanimous approval Monday night from the council, representatives from Centurion Partners asked for a continuance. The three-member council granted the request to continue the review of their proposed 80-room hotel to June 25. By then, a new City Council will in office.Centurion developers are banking on a full council to review their proposal, which has been under the scrutiny of officials for four years. Two current City Council members – Jack Johnson and Jasmine Tygre – recused themselves on the development application because of conflicts. Johnson lives in an apartment that would be razed and replaced by the project; Tygre sat on the Planning and Zoning Commission that reviewed the application.That left only Mayor Helen Klanderud and councilmen Torre and J.E. DeVilbiss to approve the project. And it was apparent Monday that Torre and DeVilbiss were going to deny the project, based on its size, use of space and the amount of dump truck trips it would require during construction. (See related story)It was a line of questioning from Torre that convinced the developers to employ a new strategy in hopes of a more favorable City Council. A new mayor and new City Council member will be elected in a runoff race June 5 and sworn in June 11; Dwayne Romero won a seat in the May 8 election.But even with new members, conflicts of interest could still plague the council.Romero, a principal with Steeplechase Partners, might have a conflict of interest: Steeplechase serves as project manager on developments like Aspen Highlands’ base village, Obermeyer Place and the Residences at The Little Nell, the latter of which Centurion, in part, is developing. Romero said he would seek City Attorney John Worcester’s advice on whether he needs to recuse himself.City Council candidate Steve Skadron, who will face off against Toni Kronberg in the runoff election, also would have a conflict of interest. Skadron approved the project when he was a Planning and Zoning commissioner. As a result, he would have to recuse himself on the Lodge at Aspen Mountain if he wins a seat on the council.If Skadron wins and Romero chooses to recuse himself, that will leave only two council members – DeVilbiss and the winner of the mayoral runoff, Tim Semrau or Mick Ireland – to vote on the project, which doesn’t constitute a quorum. According to city law, all council members would then be forced to review and vote on the project.”This isn’t my first rodeo,” said John Sarpa, a principal in Centurion Partners.
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The new president has visited Aspen and Snowmass five times since 2011, including visits with veterans, policy talks and family vacations.