Timeshare plan for base of Ajax tabled
April 29, 2003
Take Little Nell off the ballot.
Or at least take The Residences at Little Nell and the recent minor flap about political endorsements from the Aspen Skiing Co. out of this spring’s election. That was the advice of the Aspen city attorney Monday night.
After getting some clear legal guidance, Councilman Tom McCabe decided last night he was, in fact, comfortable sitting through a review of the proposed timeshare project at the base of Aspen Mountain.
And then the developers, Aspen Land Fund LLC and CWA Development LLC, were granted a continuation of their public hearing until after the May 6 election.
“Based on the political climate of election time and the perceived issue of potential conflicts of interest, we believe everyone involved in the process would best be served if were granted this continuance,” Aspen Land Fund representative Brooke Peterson wrote in a letter to the council. “Our project should not become a political platform issue or a negative lightning rod during this current election period.”
The council passed the continuation request by a vote of 4-0, with Tony Hershey not voting.
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The Residences at Little Nell, and McCabe’s involvement in reviewing the project, became an issue after Councilman Terry Paulson claimed that the Skico’s recent endorsement of McCabe created the perception of a conflict of interest.
The Skico also endorsed Mayor Helen Klanderud and Hershey, but Hershey had already recused himself because he is a Skico employee.
Klanderud brushed off the conflict of interest charge made by Paulson, but McCabe stepped down in what city attorney John Worcester called Monday night an “overabundance of caution.” (Worcester was on vacation the night the question came up.)
The Skico, while not a formal partner or co-applicant in the Little Nell Residences project, does hope to play a management role if the project is built.
Worcester told McCabe on Monday that unless he had a “substantial personal or financial interest” in the project, or unless he felt for some reason that he could not fairly judge the project, then the city’s charter requires him to participate in the review and cast a vote.
“He doesn’t have a conflict of interest,” Worcester said of McCabe.
And McCabe was fine with that.
“I am comfortable now sitting on this,” he said of the pending review process.
Paulson, who voted for the continuation until after the election, said he still thought the close timing of the Skico’s endorsement letter and the Residences project coming before the council raised some questions.
Worcester replied, “I suspect if they had to do it all over again, they would have sent the letter out earlier or later.”
According to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle, the Skico sent its letter out on April 4 in order to reach its employees before they left town after the lifts closed, and not to influence the council on the Little Nell project.
The proposal for the Residences at Little Nell, which includes 24 luxury timeshare units and 98,200 square feet of development, will be heard again by the council on May 12.
[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]