What now at base of Aspen Mountain?
October 21, 2007
ASPEN Aspen is making an effort to design a grand plan for the remaining pieces of undeveloped land at the base of Aspen Mountain.Mayor Mick Ireland is pushing for a master plan that would map out what the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side would look like when new development happens there.He’s enlisted local planner Stan Clauson, who also is the chairman of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board, for his ideas on how a master plan would work for the area below lift 1A and whether it’s a concept that ACRA would support. Ireland plans to introduce the idea at the ACRA board meeting on Oct. 30.”There are three major entities that own land there, and if they combine their properties under one plan, you may get a better result,” Ireland said. “It would make for better development.”Ireland and some of his colleagues on the City Council realized during the review process of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a proposed hotel with fractional-ownership condos on South Aspen Street, that a master plan would better serve the entire base area. The council shot down the proposal by the landowner, Centurion Partners, last month.Another development proposal at the base – the Lift One Lodge – is due for a review by the City Council early next year. That development includes a 114,00-square-foot lodge with 32 suites containing a total of 97 separate rental rooms. The lodge would be where the Holland House currently sits, as well as three parcels the Aspen Skiing Co. owns around the base of Lift 1A.Jim Chaffin, Jim Light and David Wilhelm own the property where the Holland House and the Skiers Chalet buildings currently sit. The city owns Willoughby Park, a 51-by-115-foot strip of open space below the Skiers Chalet, as well as South Aspen Street.A master plan would be possible only if the property owners want to work as partners with the city. Ireland has discussed the idea with John Sarpa, a principal with Centurion, and plans to talk to Skico representatives as well. City law forbids an elected official from discussing a pending application with the developer, so Ireland will be unable to gauge interest from Bob Daniel, who represents the Lift One Lodge.Chris Bendon, the director of the city’s community development department, said he has had informal discussions with all of the property owners that a master plan would affect. But there’s hesitation, he added.”Quite frankly, partnering with the city makes people queasy, if not downright nauseous,” he said. “There are varying degrees of interest, but it’s in the property owners’ court to enter into a master plan with the city.”Sarpa, who already has approval to build 17 townhomes where the hotel would have been, still is weighing his options. Centurion could revamp its plan and resubmit a different proposal, be part of a master planning process or just build the free-market residential component.”[A master plan] is one of the things we are considering,” he said, adding that he thought his development proposal best suited the area and was in harmony with the Lift One Lodge.Sunny Vann, who represents Lift One Lodge, said he and Daniel already have master planned the area – they’ve worked with Centurion, residents and the Skico to come up with a development that works well in a confined space. That plan includes improving South Aspen Street and paying for a shuttle system that would bring skiers from town to the lift.Vann said the Lift One Lodge proposal addresses “big-picture” issues that would be part of a master plan – street improvements, transportation and preserving the history of the area. Those elements, in part, helped the developers get approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission.The Skico is a crucial player in the master planning process because of the property it owns and the potential for a new chairlift serving that side of the mountain. Skico representatives are open to a master plan concept, but no one in the company has been approached about it, said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.”We don’t know what [Ireland] has in mind,” he said.A sticking point for Ireland is that in order for the Lift One Lodge to be built, lift 1A has to move 125 feet farther uphill. “The craziness of moving the lift uphill is a major problem,” he said, adding that a master plan could resolve that if a surface lift would carry people from Durant Avenue to Lift 1A. Ireland said it’s not impossible and pointed to a 1997 application the Skico submitted calling for a town lift.Skico officials say that with the extension of South Aspen Street farther up, a cul-de-sac would serve as the entry point to the mountain and would require people to walk about the same distance it is from the gondola plaza to the gondola. They also say that the state tramway board requires 75 feet of clearance from structures for a chairlift, and there isn’t enough space in the area to do it.Ireland said a well-thought-out master plan might resolve those issues and could include a surface lift of sorts that acts as a people mover and requires less clearance.Bendon said there’s a lot of opportunity to create development that serves a tourist population. If Centurion ends up building townhomes, it will be a lost opportunity, he added.”I see that area as an area that is ripe for redevelopment and anything that moves in that direction is a good idea,” he said.Whether the absence of a master plan will affect the outcome of the Lift One Lodge remains to be seen, but it’s up to the developers to proceed at this point.”They might want to proceed with their application, and that’s fine,” Ireland said. “We’re not going to do it unless property owners are willing to participate,”But I would like to do it as soon as possible.”Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.