Limelite plan sent back for tweaking | AspenTimes.com

Limelite plan sent back for tweaking

Janet Urquhart

After lauding a longtime family’s desire to redevelop the Limelite Lodge, the Aspen City Council sent them back to the drawing board Monday.The conceptual plan to replace the lodge with a new, moderately priced hotel and free-market townhomes was continued to Aug. 8 after a four-hour discussion last night.Most council members were concerned with the height and mass of the new development, slated to include a 128-room lodge on the north side of Cooper Avenue at Monarch Street, and a 17-unit building of free-market residences on the south side of Cooper. The free-market component is necessary to finance the redevelopment of the lodge itself, explained owner Dale Paas and his representatives.Council members expressed a desire to see the Limelite redeveloped and praised the Paas family, now in its fourth generation of lodge operators. But like many in the standing room-only crowd in the council’s chambers, the 46-foot top roof height of the buildings was a sticking point.”I think 46 feet is too high,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.The family is only seeking what it needs for a successful project, rather than asking for the moon with the expectation that the council will trim the proposal back, Paas said.”We didn’t ask for an elephant. I implore you to realize we didn’t ask for more than we needed, expecting to be cut down,” he said.Reducing the height and mass of the lodge building will mean cutting rooms, warned Steve Szymanski, development manager for the project.”The only thing we will do is take out rooms, absolutely. That will be the effect, is to take out rooms,” he said.”To fall below 128 certainly doesn’t break the deal for me,” Klanderud responded.The council recently adopted new regulations in its lodging zone. In exchange for building rooms that average 500 square feet and one room for every 500 square feet of property, lodges are allowed more height and density than the underlying zoning dictates – 42 feet in height instead of 28, for example. In addition, 25 percent of the property can be free-market, but the Limelite proposal is 40 percent free-market residential.Some council members expressed dismay that the first project to come through under the new regulations exceeded those parameters.”This project is not exactly what I envisioned coming forward when we were doing our revisions,” said Councilman Torre.Neighbors of the project, while praising the Paases, complained about the resulting loss of views of Aspen Mountain and declining property values if the new lodge is built.Two-thirds of the condo owners at 210 E. Cooper Ave. will have their views blocked entirely, said Andrea Clark, a homeowner.On the other hand, owners realize they’d take their chances with another developer if the Paases sold out, said Bob Leatherman, condo association president at 210 E. Cooper.”We wish to keep the Paas family as neighbors. They’ve been good neighbors to us over the years,” he said.Several citizens and members of the council also questioned what guarantee they have that the new lodge will offer “mid-priced” accommodations as promised.”Who, in 2008, is going to make sure the Limelite Lodge is moderately priced when it is up and running?” Clark asked.Paas declined to discuss the likely room rates at the redeveloped lodge. Currently, the Limelite charges $140 to $170 per night on average, he said.Various citizens urged the council to approve the Limelite plan in order to retain a place where many groups, from volleyball and hockey tournament participants, to Food & Wine Classic and Winter X Games crews can afford to stay.Right now, some potential guests head to Glenwood Springs when they discover Aspen’s lodging for less than $200 a night is all booked, said Bill Tomcich, president of the reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.”One of the hardest things to do is get a base of guests and we have that,” Paas said. “It would not be in our best interests to change our market.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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