Lodge can’t modify housing rules
A local lodge owner who wants to build employee housing that meets the unique needs of his workers hit a wall Wednesday with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Board.
Michael Behrendt, owner of the St. Moritz Lodge, is sitting on an approval to build eight more lodge units and two employee housing units at his West Hyman Avenue establishment. Because the worker housing is mitigation for the lodge expansion, housing office rules apply.
Behrendt told the housing board that the expansion plans were inspired by his need for employee housing. He argued that the housing office’s regulations are tailored to the needs of the year-round employee rather than the seasonal worker he needs, but to no avail.
The housing board denied Behrendt’s request to lift requirements for a six-month minimum leases and year-round occupancy of the units.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Behrendt.
“Some of my employees are here for two or three months and they don’t want to be here longer than that,” Behrendt said. “If I have someone in there in the off-season, I can’t hire in the on-season in order to run my business. … I would gladly eat the non-rent during the time it sits empty because employees are so valuable in the on-season.”
Board member Cari Britton responded that the minimum six-month lease is a measure that helps protect the employee. But Behrendt contended that the minimum only makes sense for the long-term employee, not one that only intends to stay for one season.
Board members also stressed that since Behrendt’s employee units are mitigation against the “growth” created by the additional lodge units, the units should serve a larger community purpose than filling the needs of a single business. That means when they don’t house St. Moritz employees, the housing office will fill them.
“There are so many unique situations, there’s no realistic way to make everybody happy,” said city councilman and housing board member Tom McCabe. “We can’t just customize rules and regulations to everybody’s needs.”
After the meeting Behrendt, was critical of the board’s inflexibility.
“I guess they’re afraid if they make one exception, everybody will want one. But it’s exactly this kind of inflexibility that makes employers do anything to avoid them. I think their intentions are good and if common sense dies along the way, I guess that’s the price.”
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