City of Aspen to hold a special election surrounding new chairlift | AspenTimes.com

City of Aspen to hold a special election surrounding new chairlift

Aspen Mountain's Lift 1A is a double-chair that is going to be replaced on the west side of the mountain. A study released Friday looks at the best options to extend the lift downhill closer to Dean Street.

Aspen residents can expect a special election in early 2019 to decide on an alignment for a new Lift 1A chairlift and possibly hotels on either side of it.

City planners last month plotted out a fairly aggressive timeline for public review of land-use applications for the Lift One Lodge and Gorsuch Haus. Both properties will have to be reconfigured to accommodate a newly designed chairlift that goes down to Dean Street.

Officials expect that those hotel redesigns will likely trigger a public vote because of variances to the land-use code that developers may ask for. The development and lift would affect city-owned property, which also requires a vote.

As a result, there could be as many as three ballot questions that would go to voters once all the pieces come together.

But to get to that point, city departments must weigh in on the plans, and then there has to be review and approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission and City Council.

The original thought was that approvals would need to happen by the end of July or early August to get ballot language ready for the November election.

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Jessica Garrow, the city's Community Development director, said all of the affected parties agree that's not enough time for a full vetting of the land-use applications.

"We are all working well together but we just need more time to get the details dialed in," she said, adding she expects land-use applications to be submitted to the city by mid- to late summer.

In the meantime, there will be work session-style meetings with the review bodies to hash out details like space needs for lift operations, mudflow, grading, site planning and uses on the properties.

Garrow said the winter of 2019 is when the vote will likely take place.

"We believe January or February is more achievable and will ensure the community and the review bodies have more fully developed and understandable plans to vote on," she said.

Last month, the four landowners at the base of Aspen Mountain's west side agreed on a new lift alignment, which came after a year of studying nine options.

Those who own property in the area are the city of Aspen; Aspen Skiing Co.; local hoteliers Michael and Aaron Brown, who have approvals for a new Lift One Lodge; as well as retailer Jeff Gorsuch and his partners, who are proposing to build a new hotel, the Gorsuch Haus.

Councilman Adam Frisch had said at a May 15 meeting that he didn't want to rush the approval process and suggested a special election sometime in the winter.

He said Thursday he is pleased that the process has been slowed down.

"If they need an extra couple of months then so be it," he said, adding he'll push for an on-mountain voting location. "It would be classic if there was a ballot box on the mountain."

csackariason@aspentimes.com