Letter: Compromise for affordable lodging
In response to the editorial in the July 11 edition of The Aspen Times, “Editorial: Base2 — something’s gotta give,” I disagree that Mark Hunt should just pull the project. We desperately need affordable lodging and we have it in front of us. Once again, we may kill a project that would otherwise benefit our community by putting too many exactions on it. I co-sponsored Referendum 1, but unlike some others’ thinking, I do not think that every variance is bad; the purpose of Referendum 1 is to allow the voters to decide what variances they think are best for the community. Though Hunt has been showing this project to the public extensively, it appears that he will have to do more of it. I hope that voters who haven’t already will really take the time to listen and learn before making any visceral decisions. If after hearing what is planned for this and other Hunt sites, voters do not think it is appropriate, they should vote their informed belief.
As to the project, no, there is nothing in writing about the affordable-room price, but the room size will limit what can be charged. If the price goes up too much, then people will go to lodges that are similarly priced but have much larger rooms. The room size cannot be changed without going to the council. Of course, it would be better to have something in writing on the price, and I hope that it will come out of this process. This project is larger than allowed under current zoning, but the absurd part is that the property could easily be rezoned, and the size would be allowed with no variance. So, it is form over substance to say that its size violates current zoning. It is not in the true downtown core, is 4 feet taller than Carl’s Pharmacy across the street and shorter than the Jerome. The location is perfect. I am concerned about the lack of on-site parking and its effect on the neighborhood as some guests probably will park there. I do not live in that area, so I do not want to speak for them, but, at some point, we have to be willing to compromise to get affordable lodging. Land and construction costs, plus the costs of design and approval, render projects so expensive in our town that affordable lodging is difficult to justify economically without some compromise.
Aspen, we have a shot at a great affordable-lodging facility. Yes, it has issues, but we will need to compromise to get affordable lodging. It simply cannot be built in the incomplete compliance with our requirements given the economics of our town. It is up to the voters to decide on what we are willing to compromise. Please take a close look at this project. If I recall from my meeting with Mr. Hunt, the alternative is a 14-room lodge that meets code and has expensive rates. Do we need more of that?
J. Cavanaugh O’Leary
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