Letter: Beware DeFrancia | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Beware DeFrancia

Beware DeFrancia

I urge caution when reading developer Jim DeFrancia’s criticism of The Aspen Times’ call for a vote on the lodging ordinance.

DeFrancia has a personal stake in the lodging ordinance, given that he is proposing to redevelop the long abandoned Boomerang Lodge at Fourth Street and Hopkins Avenue. He recently lamented in the papers over recommendations of denial by both planning staff and the P&Z with his proposal to build a massive free-market condominium and lodging complex at the Boomerang. He has a vested interest in a lodging ordinance that grants developers exemptions from affordable-housing regulations and significant discounts from the fees that every other person applying for a building permit must pay.

Even more pernicious is a section of the new lodging regulations that codifies the right of lodge owners to convert their units into free-market condominiums as soon as 10 years after completion. That’s quite a deal for developers and lodge owners — they save millions because they do not have to pay full development fees or build a reasonable amount of affordable housing. And after 10 years can cash in by converting hotel rooms into privately owned condominiums.

In fact, the lodging ordinance should be decided by the voters. It is a significant departure from the land-use policies that were enacted in the early 1970s and remained fully intact until the mid-2000s. During that period, land-use policies honored the historic scale of Aspen’s neighborhoods and maintained a strong relationship with the environment. Building sizes were kept reasonable, open space was required to make streets more pedestrian-friendly, and people’s views to the mountains were protected.

All of that began to unravel when the City Council adopted infill policies in the first half of the 2000s. The results can be seen with oversized buildings like the art museum and the massive mixed-use structure being built by Nikos and Andy Hecht behind Boogie’s. The last City Council, under Mayor Mick Ireland, scrapped some provisions of the infill regulations but unfortunately could not stop some of the worst outcomes.

Now, three members of City Council have radically loosened regulations for lodging industry. The very fact that two of five council members voted against the change should be a signal that these regulations are not ready for prime time.

Allyn Harvey