Editorial: Mountain House demolition not in Aspen’s best interest

With all of the chatter about Aspen’s shrinking bed base, it’s discouraging to see that Mountain House Lodge is on the brink of being razed and replaced with two single-family homes.

Mountain House Lodge is hardly fancy. It’s a quaint, 26-room lodge on East Hopkins Avenue. But it’s also an affordable lodge, at least by Aspen standards, and supports the bed base that tourism and business officials long for.

But brothers Aaron and Michael Brown have filed an application with the city of Aspen to subdivide the 12,000-square-foot lot, on which Mountain House Lodge sits, into two 6,000-square-foot lots where two single-family homes would be built.

Keep in mind, these are the same Brown brothers who won approval from Aspen City Council to increase the number of rooms at the Hotel Aspen from 45 to 54. To help fund the redevelopment, the Browns plan to build three single-family homes, no greater than 8,400 square feet, on the Hotel Aspen site.

At the request of Councilman Art Daily — whose vote swung the 2-2 council stalemate on approval of the project — the Browns agreed to limit the heights of the free-market units to 25 feet. The brothers initially had proposed home heights up to 35 feet, but the majority of the council was not swayed.

Meanwhile, with the city’s approval, the Mountain House Lodge will be scraped and replaced by two more homes that the Browns will develop. And the Browns’ decision to do this came after they didn’t get what they wanted from City Council on their Hotel Aspen application.

As property owners, the Brown brothers have property rights, too. Even so, their business vision gives us serious pause as to whether they truly have Aspen’s best interests in mind.