Lift One COWOP has run its course
July 17, 2009
The often-debated Lift One project was back in the headlines this week when the Aspen City Council approved the formation of a new citizen task force to figure out how to develop Aspen Mountain’s west side.
Only this time, the new COWOP (convenience and welfare of the public) will convene without having to mull over the proposal of the Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge-Aspen, whose developers withdrew their 130,000-square-foot lodge proposal from the master plan.
This time it will be Centurion Partners, which is proposing the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, along with the Aspen Skiing Co. and the city of Aspen, which owns property in the 2.5 acres also known as the Lift One Neighborhood.
Obviously, some kind of decision needs to be reached about the fate of this part of Aspen. The developers certainly aren’t going to leave it as is.
But we’re not convinced another COWOP is the right way to address this. To his credit, Centurion principal John Sarpa has said he wants a COWOP so he can bring in the most vocal opponents to the Lodge at Aspen Mountain debate in order to find some kind of happy medium.
The previously proposed Lift One master plan, which included the then 175,000-square-foot Lodge at Aspen Mountain, was shot down by the City Council earlier this year mainly because of its mass and scale. Its current reiteration has the hotel at 160,000 square feet.
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The same master plan was devised after months of COWOP meetings that were conducted in an effort to find a project palatable to everyone.
Now there will be a new COWOP, comprised of new members who will once again try to find a project that’s most suitable for Aspen.
The problem is, Mayor Mick Ireland already has suggested he wants this to go to public vote, despite voting for the COWOP. The council voted 3-1 in approval of the formation of the COWOP, with Councilman Torre in dissent. For the sake of argument, let’s say Torre and Ireland vote against the project, as presented through the eyes of the COWOP. That will make it 2-2 (Councilman Derek Johnson can’t vote because he lives near the project), which would mean the project would be deadlocked.
And if council does approve the project, we’re confident there will be a citizen referendum.
As democratic as a COWOP might seem, it’s not as democratic as a public vote. And this is where this project is heading. A COWOP, despite its good intentions, could very well turn out to be an immense waste of time.