Incentive package to focus on small lodges
The Aspen Times
The Aspen City Council will continue its discussion on proposed lodge incentives next week, and members vowed Monday to focus on support for small lodges while also weighing financial impacts from fee waivers for developers and the viability of condominium rental requirements.
Also up for consideration is potential flexibility on affordable-housing mitigation for developers, which city planners originally recommended against based on public feedback. The council also gave general support to maintain building-height requirements, while allowing greater floor area in certain circumstances.
The lodge proposal is a revamped version of Ordinance 19, the controversial lodge-incentive package that was passed and then repealed in the face of public referendum in August.
Councilman Dwayne Romero said Monday that he agreed with former mayor Bill Stirling’s comments about not making the new package so reactive that it’s ineffective. He added he strongly concurred with the idea that the focus should be support for Aspen’s existing, small-lodge owners.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said she agree with Aspen Skiing Co. representative Dave Perry that inaction with the potential lodge proposal will erode the bed base and lead to a more expensive and exclusive Aspen. She equated the package as “welcoming the next generation of visitors to Aspen.”
Councilman Adam Frisch said Aspen wants to lose weight, but it doesn’t want to stop eating Twinkies. In order to bolster the bed base, he said Aspen will need to offer compromise to development, whether it’s with mass, fee waivers or affordable-housing mitigation. He also agreed with Mullins that no action will hurt the town in the long run.
“We do nothing and Aspen will become more expensive, and we’ll have more eggs in fewer baskets,” Frisch said.
On incentivizing new developers, he made the case that the city should let that aspect work itself out. New development is going to ask what it wants, and rather than trying to address it through the code, the council should work through it at the council table, he said.
Recommendations from city planners included the requirement that residential units be made available in the rental pool for six months of the year, during which the owner or owner-guest could not stay in the unit. The city would require documentation to show compliance. Planners also suggested a condominium owner-rebate program, requiring those who remodel their units to show rental documentation in order to receive a portion of their fees back.
Former mayor Mick Ireland argued condominium owners will take their units off the rental market if they renovate. He added that the city would have little ability to verify that the units are rented. Both Frisch and Mayor Steve Skadron agreed, with the mayor saying good intentions may not translate to a favorable reality.
Skadron also addressed the potential for a referendum effort led by local attorney Bert Myrin, who shot down the original ordinance with fellow attorney Cavanaugh O’Leary. In an email Monday, Myrin said if there is public support for referendum on a package that gets approved, it would become a logical time to circulate a resident-led initiative, which would reduce the need for future referendums.
“The voters need to take back our town from our elected officials, the city manager and the developers,” Myrin wrote.
Skadron cited Myrin’s view that variance requests on height, mass and scale should be subject to public vote, similar to code associated with recent action taken in Telluride. The mayor regarded Myrin’s opinion as extreme.
Myrin wrote that his preference is for automatic referral when applicants request around 5 percent above the code.
“Others prefer an outright elimination with no workaround for projects that might otherwise have broad community support,” he said.
Planners will return to council Monday with a reworked ordinance based on feedback.
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In the fields and vineyards from Palisade to Paonia to McElmo Canyon, grapes are still ripening on the vines and farmers are now picking with high hopes that the wines of 2020 will rise above the tenor of the times.