Judge to rule on Burlingame | AspenTimes.com

Judge to rule on Burlingame

Sarah S. Chung

It may be up to a week before a judge determines whether or not the Burlingame seasonal project will be delayed for a critical, full construction season.

Tuesday marked the conclusion of a two-day hearing on the Maroon Creek Club’s motion to halt construction of the 200-bed project, planned by the city of Aspen and Music Associates of Aspen. After hearing testimony from both sides, District Court Judge Thomas Ossola said he wanted a few days to weigh the testimony.

The private golf club has filed two lawsuits against the city and MAA over the housing project, proposed on the club’s borders, west of Aspen.

This week’s hearing is a result of the second suit, which seeks a court injunction halting the project until the court has ruled on the club’s claim that the city violated its own land-use regulations in approving the development.

The first lawsuit, which is still pending, objects to the project’s proposed use of a road that serves the golf club.

Testimony at the hearing centered on the ramifications of going ahead vs. delaying the project.

For the Maroon Creek Club, additional vehicles generated by the housing could undermine the residential golf club’s primary selling point – its exclusivity. For the MAA, not having the new housing built by June 1, 2000 could mean slashing Music School enrollment and staff.

According to a Maroon Creek Club consultant, only 40 percent of the course’s design capacity was used in order to heighten the playing experience for its members.

“It would be disruptive to the golfing experience,” said Dan Conway of THK and Associates, a golf club management consulting firm. “[The additional traffic] all starts to impact the exclusivity of the club.”

But halting construction of the housing, which will replace student housing that will be lost this year, could devastate the Aspen Music Festival and School’s reputation and ability to operate, countered MAA President Robert Harth.

“The music business is a very small business. Everybody knows everybody,” he testified. “Word of a drastic reduction in staff would spread like wildfire. It would be difficult to recover.”

Specifically, Harth testified that not having the planned housing for 176 students at Burlingame next summer could translate into a $280,000 loss in revenue, fewer performances, the cutting of 20 staff members, and a much smaller student enrollment.

Currently, 190 Music School students are housed at the Grand Aspen, but the hotel is scheduled to be demolished before next summer.

After all the witnesses had taken the stand, Judge Ossola asked a few pointed questions to the golf club’s attorney, David Lenyo, during Lenyo’s summary.

“Wouldn’t we be thwarting public will by issuing an injunction?” Ossola asked. “Doesn’t great deference have to be given to elected public officials’ decision?”

Lenyo responded that “great deference does not give the right to ignore its own statutes.

“Public will can’t trample on property rights,” Lenyo argued. “Public officials must abide by their own rules.”

Judge Ossola said his written decision will be made by Aug. 25.

Lenyo declined to comment on the proceedings after Tuesday’s conclusion. City Attorney John Worcester said he is “confident” the city and the MAA “will prevail.”

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