Editorial: Lodging ordinance a blow to Aspen’s charm | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Lodging ordinance a blow to Aspen’s charm

The door to Aspen development opportunity didn’t just crack open with Aspen City Council’s passing of its lodge-incentive ordinance Monday; it was blasted wide open.

A 3-2 vote, the culmination of Aspen’s five elected officials debating until the late hours of Monday night, resulted in the passage of a 91-page ordinance that allows developers to propose four-story lodges south of Durant Avenue or, in other words, toward Aspen Mountain.

Anyone who’s followed developers’ proposals over the years knows what this means: Now we’ll see developers seek special exemptions by jockeying for five- and six-story lodges. As Councilwoman Ann Mullins, who, along with Mayor Steve Skadron, cast one of the two dissenting votes, said, “You’re going to have to fight your way back down again. You start with three (levels), at least your baseline is a bit lower and more controlled.”

No more. Now Aspen will be subjected to four-story hotels that potentially could rise as high as 63 feet.

Equally troubling about the new ordinance are the reduced affordable-housing requirements for lodge developers. For example, with the new program, an eligible 11-unit lodge requires 1.75 full-time-equivalent employees, essentially half the previous requirement. The requirement for a 26-unit lodge decreases from 9.36 to 3.5 full-time equivalents.

In the end, the developers and the hotel industry can put another feather in their cap. This is a big win for them at a time when downtown Aspen is losing even more of its small-town charm while gaining a big-city look and feel.

Indeed, we all want to see Aspen succeed and maintain its spot as a world-class tourist destination. But surrendering the town’s views and nostalgia strikes us simply as throwing in the towel in the name of profit.