New life on the sleepy western side? |

New life on the sleepy western side?

The Lodge at Aspen Mountain proposal, which returns to City Council’s plate next month, reflects many of Aspen’s conflicting goals and wrenching debates. And that’s why it’s hanging in the balance.First, it came to City Council during a time when the political environment pits development against conservation. On the other hand, the latest version of the 175,000-square-foot project would add 56 badly needed hotel rooms to a shrinking base that’s being supplanted by condos and fractionalized ownership. It’s unusually “green” for a development of its kind, and it comes with the bonus of $4 million for a new high-speed quad lift to replace the aging Lift 1A. But, as Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss pointed out at Monday’s meeting, construction of the lodge would generate 10,000 dump truck-loads coming into Aspen. DeVilbiss and Councilman Torre reasoned that they could not, in good conscience, burden Aspen residents and disrupt their lives with yet another massive construction project. They also said the proposed lodge – which also called for two underground parking garages, a restaurant, 21 fractional units, four free-market condos and 16 on-site employee housing units – was simply too big. The proposal exceeded the city’s floor-area and height limits and, as mentioned earlier, would gobble up open space. Torre and DeVilbiss are correct about these flaws. But many thoughtful locals – including all the candidates for two open seats on the Aspen City Council – believe that the lodge’s merits overshadow its flaws. When developers Centurion Partners and Aspen Land Fund II LLC return to the council on May 14, we hope they bring a project that our elected leaders can approve. We also hope that Torre and DeVilbiss, the two key players in this debate since Mayor Helen Klanderud has voiced her approval, will consider bending a little on this one. After all, this would mark the first time in at least two decades that an Aspen hotel has been built from the ground up.The Lodge at Aspen Mountain is gigantic, but it could stimulate new life on the sleepy western side of Aspen Mountain. The somewhat run-down neighborhood below Lift 1A is bound for redevelopment, and we’d prefer it involve hotel beds rather than another group of oversized, empty, high-end residences. Hotel rooms are doubly important to Aspen in the wake of the pending sale of the Hotel Jerome to a group of owners with a hotel-condo history. The Lodge at Aspen Mountain deal has been four years in the making, and we urge both sides to ensure that those years of planning and negotiation don’t go to waste.

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