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Hunt lodge concept wins unanimous Aspen City Council approval

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
Mark Hunt's Base1 lodge project won unanimous Aspen City Council approval on Monday.
Courtesy rendering |

With a stipulation requiring a long-term agreement on off-site parking, developer Mark Hunt won unanimous Aspen City Council approval for his Cooper Avenue lodge proposal on Monday.

Hunt, who plans to replace the Cooper Avenue structure home to Domino’s Pizza and other businesses with a 44-room lodge, recently hatched a deal with the St. Regis Aspen Resort for 15 parking spaces. Though the commercial-lodge district requires that he provide 24 spaces, the Community Development Department recommended approval of the arrangement.

By city planners’ estimates, Hunt had eliminated all variance requests associated with the original application before Monday’s hearing. At the suggestion of Councilman Art Daily, the parking stipulation will require a five-year deal, with a five-year option, on parking. When that deal expires, Hunt will need to find a similar agreement.

Mayor Steve Skadron said Monday that though he is not a fan of the buildings that have cropped up in the downtown core in recent years, officials shouldn’t let “bad be the enemy of the good.”

“Simply because the (Aspen Art) Museum causes us angst, it shouldn’t cause us to ignore the possibility of a good project,” he said.

Councilman Adam Frisch said Hunt’s proposal presented a better product than “he ever would have dreamed of.”

“I never thought we’d really see a standalone, moderately priced lodge that didn’t have some type of huge financial ask or some huge residential free-market component of some sort,” he said.

After a lengthy public hearing two weeks ago, Hunt returned to council with a number of concessions. The 35.5-foot-tall, 44-room lodge is within the commercial-lodge district’s 40-foot height limit, while also just within code for floor area at 17,000 square feet. Among the variance requests Hunt dropped was the request for a 2-foot height allowance to make room for a rooftop bathroom. Hunt also reversed course on a request that the city waive $40,000 in impact fees. Finally Hunt agreed to meet affordable-housing requirements for about two full-time employees through cash-in-lieu payments or the purchase of housing certificates.

“For the parking, I think this is a great solution,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said, adding that perhaps the St. Regis spaces are underutilized.

Councilman Dwayne Romero said Hunt responded well after he registered “no” votes against Hunt’s proposal, as well as his Main Street lodge concept, at first reading before the council.

Early in the discussion Skadron said Aspen currently presents a tough environment to support development, adding that he was torn over Hunt’s application. He was particularly unsettled over a lack of guarantee that lodge rooms remain in the $150 to $200 price range, which Hunt has claimed will be the case.

Nearly five hours later, Skadron addressed Hunt’s request to remove a tree on the south-facing sidewalk, which city forestry officials had recommended against. The Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to address that issue, as the council required Hunt to build around the tree, as well as design details.

herk@aspentimes.com


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