Letter: Let’s offer lodging solutions
The Hunt lodge project is a true test of whether our community is willing to think outside the box to get affordable lodging. We care so much about affordable housing, and we say we care about affordable lodging. In the Aspen Area Community Plan, our community described why it is so important to develop diverse, affordable lodges to “Keep Aspen, Aspen”:
“Without a diversity of lodging options, we limit the ability of future generations of visitors to experience the Aspen area and its surrounding public lands. Many of today’s longtime locals first experienced Aspen thanks to ‘entry-level’ lodging. The concept of providing equal access has been present in long range plans dating back to 1976.”
The Hunt lodges are designed to be affordable to regular people, which is what the community says it wants. But it will require off-site parking. I’m a regular person. When I travel, I seek out affordable rooms so that I can spend my money exploring. Rarely does my search require that there be in-lodge parking. An affordable traveler who is looking for a $200 room does not want to pay $40 per day for the privilege of parking on site — especially when everything is within walking distance or accessible by a great public transportation system. If I was traveling to Aspen, I wouldn’t care whether my car was parked on site.
The cost to build in Aspen is mind-boggling. You have to pay Aspen prices for land, pay Aspen prices to build, buy housing for several employees, pay the city’s exorbitant fees and maybe provide extensive on-site parking. Our development exactions are the highest in North America. This is not about making a developer “pay its own way.” It is about whether the community is willing to provide any relief to keep the regular person coming to Aspen. If we aren’t willing to do anything, we will continue to see the gentrification of our visitors and our community. That is exactly the opposite of what it means to “Keep Aspen, Aspen.”
I think parking is an appropriate area in which to provide some relief. If guests want to park their cars, they can drive a few blocks. If we push the developer to build expensive underground parking just because “the code says so,” will the space even get used? Aspen’s high-end hotels say their garages aren’t full. When I go to Denver, I rarely pay the exorbitant prices charged for in-hotel parking. I drive a few blocks and park in the cheap lots. Don’t you?
A lot of thoughtful people have urged the council to think creatively about parking in order to make this affordable lodge happen. They don’t love Aspen any less than the “no variance” folks just because they are willing to consider off-site parking. You can’t save Aspen by complaining about change or about how badly we need affordable everything in this community. Come out and offer ideas. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.Maria Morrow
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