Letter: Base2 reality
October 24, 2015
Please allow me to add to Ward Hauenstein's facts that are presented to the voters as "true enough" ("True enough isn't enough," Letters to the Editor, The Aspen Times, Oct. 18).
"40 Years in the Making" — this is one of the pro-Base2 slogans that have been used to encourage a "yes" vote, as though this 37-room project has been simmering on the back burner for that length of time. According to the Aspen Area Community Plan, what actually happened 40 years ago was that a group of concerned Aspen residents saw uncontrolled development as a threat to Aspen's character and enacted legislation to keep it in check. The City Council's first responsibility should be to respect these policies which continue to "keep Aspen, Aspen."
Base2 proponents prefer to focus on a single portion of the community plan to "minimize the further loss of lodging inventory." What about the part of the vision that seeks to "protect our existing lodges" and "restore public confidence in the development process"? (Google "Aspen Area Community Plan" for more details).
Aspen Skiing Co.'s David Perry informed us of the loss of hundreds of lodge rooms in a recent letter to the editor. What wasn't mentioned was how many of these properties became affordable employee housing or replacement short-term lodging.
It would appear as though a major component of the deal-breaker was the wavier of the on-site-parking requirement. Mark Hunt's development team "didn't know" that Aspen's residential restriction on sub-grade building did not apply to commercial properties? Now underground on-site parking is guaranteed by both Hunt and Dwayne Romero? Since the viability of Base1 was linked to the approval of Base2, shouldn't this newly discovered revelation open the possibilities and requirement of having on-site parking at Base1?
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The presumption that the Base2 room size would dictate its affordability is wishful thinking at its finest. What about other economic forces such as "location, location, location" and the "high-low" seasonal demand that determines Aspen's lodging rates? Does Hunt's team actually know anything about running a hotel of the type that is presented in his proposal? Most likely not. This may be the first of its kind — a lodge room in a high-end resort town with low-end pricing. Was there any marketing research, or was it a matter of telling the City Council what it wanted to hear and receiving in return as many concessions as Hunt could get?
How about the employee-housing requirement being reduced? Was any consideration given to how difficult it is to acquire and keep good employees in Aspen? Wouldn't it make sense to have sufficient housing on-site to house a decent number of employees?
And what about the perception that the combined number of rooms of the twin Base projects would be a panacea encouraging new millennial visitors? I think Su Lum's column ("Vote 'no' on 2A," The Aspen Times, Oct. 7) touched all the bases on this concept. Even if we added Base Lodges 3 through 10, when town is full, it's full, and room rates will rise accordingly.