Lodge at Aspen Mountain stalls again
ASPEN Dangling yet another carrot in hopes of winning approval Monday still wasn’t enough to convince the City Council to sign off on a large hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain. Developers of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain offered to make their proposed 80-room hotel deed-restricted for 35 years, meaning the rooms couldn’t be converted into fractional ownership units or condos.”It’s a huge risk on our part,” said John Sarpa, a representative for Centurion Partners, developers of the proposed 175,000-square-foot hotel near the base of Lift 1A.”It’s a big deal on our side of the table and for our community,” Sarpa said, noting the guarantee that the bed base of hotel rooms would remain secure for more than three decades.But the offer didn’t appear to sway at least two council members who have come out against the project in past public meetings. However, the City Council, down to three members because of recusals, unanimously approved Centurion Partners’ request to continue the review until June 25. (See related story)City Councilman Torre has said he doesn’t like the mass of the building, the use of space and the size of the four free-market condominiums. He appeared frustrated Monday that Centurion representatives didn’t come back with responses to the concerns he expressed in prior public reviews.Sarpa said the project is driven by market forces. As a result, the four whole-ownership units, which vary in size between 3,400 and 3,800 square feet, are necessary for the development to be economically feasible.”If we could make those changes, we would have obviously made them,” he said. “We’ve worked so darned hard to make this work, we’ve made it smaller than anyone is capable of in this industry …””But the project needs to work for the risks we are taking.”Sarpa added that deed-restricting hotel rooms was an offering in response to concerns brought council members brought up in the past.”Don’t you see how significant this is?” Sarpa asked, adding that it would guarantee $2 million annually in sales taxes for Aspen. “You would have the comfort of knowing that there is a likelihood that they would remain hotel rooms.”The offer didn’t appear to impress City Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss, either. His concern is the sheer volume of dirt that would have to be hauled out. Developers estimated that construction would require 10,000 dump truck loads. The revised number was 7,800 dump truck loads on Monday. DeVilbiss said he wanted specific calculations on how much will have to be moved.The project also includes 21 fractional lodging units, nearly 4,000 square feet of meeting space and 54 affordable-housing units for 112 people. There would be 16 on-site employee housing units and a combined 37 off-site units, including 28 at the yet-to-be-developed Smuggler Racquet Club and nine at the Aspen Business Center. Developers also have offered a new high-speed chairlift to replace the old Lift 1A, as well as a snowmelt system on South Aspen Street and sidewalks from the new lift to Durant Avenue.DeVilbiss and Torre also seemed unimpressed with Sarpa’s point that the Lodge at Aspen Mountain is smaller in height than other hotels in town. Nearly 50 percent of the building is below 42 feet, and the rest is below 45 feet. Architect Bill Poss compared that to the St. Regis, which is around 66 feet tall. The Hotel Jerome is 49 feet tall on Main Street and 54 feet tall on Mill Street.Continuing his sales pitch, Sarpa pointed out that the Lodge at Aspen Mountain would donate $1 from each per night room to local nonprofits. The lodge also would offer vocational training in the hospitality industry to high school students and young professionals. The company also plans to pay full-time employees to do charity work in the community.In addition, nearly a dozen people – many of them neighbors of the development – spoke in favor of it. They said the hotel would reinvigorate a dead part of town and address a dwindling bed base in the resort.Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, listed nearly 30 hotels or small lodges that have disappeared in the past 10 years.”The council could go a long way to stop this erosion of the bed base,” he said.Centurion Partners already has approval to construct 14 townhomes and 17 affordable housing units on 2.4 acres. If the council denies the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, Centurion will go ahead with 84,000 square feet of residential development.Mike Kaplan, president and CEO of the Aspen Skiing Co., said the decision is simple: Either approve “cold, dark townhomes” or approve “hot beds and vibrancy.”Still, a few people spoke against the project, saying it is too large and doesn’t offer enough rooms for its size.”I think the reason that people like this project so much is that it was so bad when it started,” said Aspen resident Les Holst.Even though DeVilbiss and Torre called the project “outstanding,” they remained publicly against it and believe it could be better.Only DeVilbiss will vote on the development, since Torre and Mayor Helen Klanderud will relinquish their council seats June 11.Klanderud was ready to vote in favor of the project. She called the proposal “brilliant” and “stellar.””Is it big? Yes, it is big, but it’s in the correct place to be big,” she said.
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