News in Brief
Litigation over Grace Church?EMMA Officials from the Emma Caucus will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. Thursday at Aspen City Hall with an announcement concerning the proposed Grace Church.Pitkin County commissioners recently agreed to a settlement in a federal case in which Grace Church officials sued for bias after commissioners denied a 2005 development application.With previous legal decisions pointing to a likely loss in the case, county commissioners agreed to a settlement allowing church officials to build a 15,000-square-foot church.But neighbors of the project pleaded with commissioners to fight the proposed building. Following the regular meeting of the caucus Monday, caucus officials said they will release details of a possible lawsuit Thursday.
Flights up, available hotel beds downASPEN Reversing a trend, flights to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport outnumber the available hotel beds in the Aspen-Snowmass area, a tourism official said. In a report to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association on Tuesday, Bill Tomcich, president of the central reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, said flights in December and early January outstripped the 2006-2007 season by 15 percent. And with a number of discounted fares to Aspen, local hotels cant keep up.Our biggest challenge is no longer available airline seats, its available hotel rooms, Tomcich said. Demand has clearly outstripped the supply of available rooms.Great snow, strong business from Europe because of the weak U.S. dollar, and a string of popular weekends including the holidays, Winterskl, Gay Ski Week and Winter X Games has seen area hotels consistently at more than 75 percent capacity, Tomcich said.Weve turned away a lot of business to other ski resorts because we dont have the available beds, Tomcich said, noting theres a growing demand among last-minute visitors looking for a few room nights.Airlines are offering rock-bottom rates as low as $105 one-way from Aspen to Los Angeles, for example but many visitors find themselves out of luck on a room in Aspen, Tomcich said.Great ski conditions and increased visitor demand, however, is a great problem to have, Tomcich said. And many locals are taking advantage of low flight costs to get out of town on the cheap.
Aspen airport eyes runway extensionASPEN Pitkin County officials are eyeing plans to lengthen the runway at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport by as much as 1,000 feet in the upvalley direction.The proposed runway extension would make the airport safer in the event of an emergency, and would allow for more passengers on flights, said Jim Elwood, the airports director of aviation. In some cases, jets fly with less than a full load because they’re restricted by the length of the runway.Any runway extension is not designed to bring in larger aircraft, Elwood stressed.In order for air traffic controllers to monitor the extended runway, however, the airport would require a new control tower or other measures, such as closed-circuit cameras or sensors on the runway to track airplanes.County commissioners invited members of a citizens board to weigh in on the proposed runway extension in a series of meetings that began in May 2007, and Elwood said the feedback has been positive overall.The primary issue: noise from landing jets moving closer to Buttermilk and the location of any proposed tower.At a board work session Tuesday, airport officials studied a series of scenarios for the proposed runway, as well as new towers, and heard from citizens in an open house at the airport operations center.The Federal Aviation Administration would pay for the upgrade, but any building would require approval of the county commissioners.
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