Planners revisit lodge package | AspenTimes.com

Planners revisit lodge package

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

City planners are looking to somehow salvage a controversial lodge-incentive package starting next week with a series of community meetings where residents will consider concepts that were presented this past summer, when the ordinance was repealed.

On Tuesday and Wednesday at the Aspen Fire Station, city officials will use voting equipment to gauge public feedback on topics like building heights, free-market residential units, fee waivers and affordable-housing requirements for lodge owners and developers. Long-range planner Jessica Garrow said those who attend will be asked specific questions, such as: "Do you think Aspen has a problem with its hotel bed base?" and "Should the city have a role in bolstering that bed base?"

"We're not going to get into very specific code language because we're really just trying to take a step back and get feedback," Garrow said. "(We want to) figure out where the community is at on this, if they feel the city should go forward and make changes in the code related to lodging or not."

After gaining community feedback, city officials will then query lodge owners and industry representatives before presenting data to the Aspen City Council on Dec. 1, when planners will seek direction on the ordinance.

The council originally passed the lodging ordinance — which would have allowed four-story lodges near Aspen Mountain, larger free-market residences, fee waivers and decreased affordable-housing requirements, among other incentives for developers ­— by a 3-2 margin on Aug. 11.

Shortly after, Aspen attorneys Bert Myrin and Cavanaugh O'Leary launched a petition to bring the issue to voters, garnering about 500 of the 641 required signatures in a 48-hour period. The council then repealed the ordinance, with the Community Development Department vowing to continue working through the issues.

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Garrow said the city is uncertain whether the incentives will return to the council as one package or in fragments. For example, if there is agreement to allow or not allow additional height for downtown lodges, it will help dictate any recommendations to the council, she said.

"We're really just trying to pare it back and say, 'Where is there agreement?'" she said. "And we'll come forward with areas where there's agreement. At this point I don't know if it's coming back as one ordinance or a few ordinances."

She added that she's confident the city will receive good feedback and that something positive will come from the meetings.

"I would expect that there is some item that council decides to move forward on," she said. "It seemed like there's maybe some consensus that existing lodges need some assistance."

The city will hold eight group meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, with the following time slots on each day: 9 to 10 a.m., 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., noon to 1 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. Those interested in attending are asked to send reservation requests to Djama Martin at djama.martin@cityofaspen.com, with two preferences for time slots.

herk@aspentimes.com