Letter: No special treatment for Gorsuch Haus
Editor’s note: The following submission is an open letter to Deputy Planning Director Jennifer Phelan of the city of Aspen.
It is my understanding that in their last presentation, the developers of Gorsuch Haus agreed to revise their initial proposal in line with the thoughtful and, in my opinion, extremely reasonable guidance provided by you and the rest of the Community Development staff. However, the revisions that I have reviewed from the developers fall far short of what Community Development called for.
I believe that the extremely disappointing Gorsuch response demonstrates a lack of acceptance of your recommendations. Indeed, Gorsuch Haus appears not to comprehend your responsibility to the residents of the city of Aspen.
• Size matters: The revised mass of the project attempts to resolve initial objections but still remains totally unacceptable. Gorsuch Haus would have the residents of Aspen believe that a 7 percent reduction in the mass of their outsized hotel will pull the wool over people’s eyes; I certainly hope not! I find a 7 percent reduction in mass would not even be detectable, let alone meaningful. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that the Gorsuch Haus developers have even attempted to address the offensive height of their proposal.
• History can repeat itself on Aspen Mountain: The potential hazards of the extremely deep excavation that will be required for both a new lift as well as whatever footprint Gorsuch Haus winds up with has not been properly addressed. Exacerbating the need to dig very deep there is also the “little matter” of the planned 50-car private garage to be built under the hotel.
It seems to me that Gorsuch should be required to provide substantial evidence that a deep dig in the middle of the 1A slope will not endanger the stability of the area. But, of course, that alone would not be sufficient. The city should demand that financial safeguards are in place to hold Gorsuch’s neighbors harmless.
Recall, this has happened before.
• “We are all equal but perhaps some of us are more equal”: I remain concerned about the concept of vesting. The code specifies three years, yet Gorsuch Haus requests five years or even more. What right do these people have to ask the city to bend the rules just for them?
Recent experience with the former owners of the Lift One Lodge has not been good. The extension of the latter’s permits resulted in those developers letting buildings like the Skier’s Chalet become unsightly derelicts due to an extended period of disuse and lack of maintenance. Neglected property becomes derelict property, which in turn becomes an eyesore. Long vesting periods are more likely to encourage this behavior. And the town is forced to live with the results. Shameful, because the framework exists to prevent this!
It is unfortunate that the Planning and Zoning Commission as a whole has to review proposals that appear to intentionally choose to ignore published guidelines simply because developers like Gorsuch Haus want to increase their profits.
Michael R. Mizen
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