Warming stations OK’d by Aspen electeds | AspenTimes.com
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Warming stations OK’d by Aspen electeds

Aspen City Council on Monday agreed to allow about a half-dozen warming stations to be erected in the downtown core this winter, to accommodate customers who are waiting to get into restaurants and retail shops due to COVID-19 capacity limits.

Five businesses have asked to place warming stations in front of their restaurants or retail stores, which will be at their expense and on private property, with some in the right of way.

Those will be in addition to the two or three that the city will place around town, which will be paid for through a Colorado Department of Transportation grant.

City Council members voiced concern Monday about energy use, and asked that the warming stations not be powered by propane.

Pete Rice, the city’s division manager in the engineering office, said the stations can tap into electricity from the city’s 100% renewable energy grid.

“We are going to have to get creative,” he said, adding solar at one location may be an option and there could be a dial at the stations that allow people to get a burst of heat instead of it constantly on. “It’s not meant to heat the entire system if nobody’s there; they only turn on if somebody is there and needs to be warm.”

Mayor Torre added that he prefers that the warming stations, whether on private property or in the right of way, be shared.

“I think it should be fair, equitable and available,” he said.

Currently it is planned that the warming stations and outdoor restaurants will take up 11 parking spaces in the downtown core.

Restaurants that choose to take up parking spaces, like they were allowed to do this past summer, will be protected by jersey barriers, considering winter conditions, said Mitch Osur, the city’s director of parking and downtown services.

This past summer, 11 restaurants were permitted to activate in the street and seven restaurants activated on the sidewalk, utilizing 30 parking spaces.

Council agreed that no retailers use the public right of way or parking spaces this winter due to abuse of the system this past summer.

There were nine retailers who activated in the street using 17 parking spaces, according to Osur.

“From a staff perspective, the majority of retailers took advantage of the situation and violated the spirit of the plan,” he wrote in a memo to council. “For example, many of the retailers only activated two or three days a week. Some retailers actually rented their outdoor space to another business. Conflicts were created when a retailer was placed on the street, which interfered with other businesses on the street level.”

csackariason@aspentimes.com


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