Lift One Lodge in Aspen wins conceptual nod
ASPEN – The Aspen City Council on Monday gave conceptual approval for developers to build a 114,000-square-foot membership lodge on the eastern side of South Aspen Street at the base of Lift 1A.
The council voted 3-1 to allow Bob Daniel, who represents developers David Wilhelm, Jim Chaffin and Jim Light, to move forward with their plans to build the Lift One Lodge at the base of Aspen Mountain.
Councilman Torre voted against the project, saying the developers haven’t addressed numerous concerns expressed by the council during the past 12 weeks, including who will use a proposed Poma lift originating at Dean Street and what the community benefit is for moving a new Lift 1A 240 feet farther uphill.
Torre said he also has a problem with the lodge’s mass and scale, as well as the fact that the rooms are too big and they are fractional timeshares. He added that the room’s “lock-off” capabilities designed so they can go into the rental pool aren’t enough for a resort that needs hotel rooms.
As part of the proposal, a total of 216 fractional memberships would be offered in 27 suites divided into one-eighth interests. With “”lock-off” capability, those units represent 107 room keys in all.
“I think there is a better solution for this side of the mountain,” Torre said. “It’s the Highland-ization or even the Snowmass-ization of this side of the mountain.
“I have such high hopes for this side of the mountain and we are failing on so many key points.”
Mayor Mick Ireland, and councilmen Dwayne Romero and Steve Skadron said, while they have concerns about the project, they support it enough for it to proceed to final review, when many details will be hashed out.
Councilman Derek Johnson recused himself because he lives within 300 feet of the proposed project.
Skadron, who at the project’s last review said he thought the chairlift moving uphill was more of a marketing perk for the lodge than it was a community benefit, said Torre raised valid points but he’s confident the project will improve during final review.
“Conceptually I agree with it,” he said. “I think there is enough here that we can move forward.”
Ireland said he thinks there are flaws with the proposal but they can be overcome.
“But it can’t be a guarantee that I’ll support it at final,” he said, adding he doesn’t have any assurances that the rooms will be rented out to the general public based on need.
He pointed to Highlands base village, which never reached the critical mass developers envisioned. Ireland said he doesn’t want a repeat of that at the Lift 1A side of the base of Aspen Mountain, where skiing originated for the resort.
“[Highlands] ain’t a lively pedestrian village … it ain’t, it ain’t, it ain’t,” he said. “People are struggling to put some life into it … the program just doesn’t bring people there.”
In addition to paying for a new high-speed 1A chairlift, developers plan to install a 650-foot-long platter lift in a corridor at Dean Street for skier access to the mountain.
That will require encroaching into the city’s right of way on South Aspen Street, making it narrower.
Resident Toni Kronberg, who’s been pushing for a gondola to run from Buttermilk to the South Aspen Street area, said conceptual approval locks the council into a Poma lift in a narrow corridor. She promised a referendum on a future ballot to overturn the council’s decision.
“These guys are idiots,” she said.
The land-use application had been submitted to the council in early 2008 after gaining approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Historic Preservation Commission.
But Daniel pulled the application and opted to participate in a joint effort known as the Lift One Neighborhood Master Plan, which included the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposed across the street, as well as dozens of amenities designed for the community at large – including the Poma lift.
The master plan was recommended by the majority of a 26-member citizen task force called the COWOP (convenience and welfare of the public). But it was ultimately withdrawn because of a lack of support from the council.
As a result, Daniel earlier this year filed a separate application and became unattached from the Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal, which is still being considered by a second COWOP.
Romero, who served on the first COWOP, said enough work has been done to further the community’s goals to approve it at the conceptual level.
“That is citizen-led planning,” he said, adding more work will be completed in the coming months. “You’ve got a country mile before you get to final approval.”
The lodge also would contain a new public restaurant, an apres ski deck, as well as ticketing facilities for the Aspen Skiing Co.
Public ski lockers would be located within the “beer, boots, and brats” restaurant on the ground floor of the relocated Skier’s Chalet Steak House building, as well as dormitory units on the second and third levels.
A ski museum, operated by the Aspen Historical Society, would be located in Willoughby Park. It would be housed in a relocated Skiers Chalet Lodge.
There also are five free-market units proposed in the project, as well as 24 affordable housing units and five dorm-style units for 10 lodge employees. The lodge would provide housing to its entire staff, estimated to be between 45 and 55 employees.
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