Lum: Vote ‘no’ on 2A
October 8, 2015
The Base2 proponents claim that there is a need for more hotel rooms in town — even though we are squashed to the breaking point in the high seasons — and claim that Mark Hunt's proposed room rates of $150 to $200 per night are affordable.
Keep saying it, and pretty soon maybe people will start believing it.
Yes, it is true that we have lost many of our funky old lodges, but we gained a lot of rooms with the big new ones, and then condominiums were born, and there are all the private rentals that have never been counted but which are mounting with the popularity of VRBOs and Airbnbs.
I defy anyone to say exactly how many "pillows" are available in Aspen, but over Christmas we wish there were fewer of them, not more.
Hunt has already said that Base2 rates will go up in the high season, which is entirely reasonable and expected. I have heard the number of $400 per night bandied about. He has not, however, said anything about the rates going down in the offseason.
On the Thursday before Labor Day, I went on the Trivago website, which lists hotel-room costs, and found that of 19 listings in Aspen, 14 charged less than $200 per night and only five cost $200 per night or more.
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Eleven of the 19 charged less than $150 per night, and eight charged more.
I wrote a column reporting this, and there was a blustery response that I had done my research in the offseason, flat-out statements that this couldn't possibly be true (hey, I was as surprised as anyone else) and claims that there would be a huge difference when it came to the high season.
If you think you're going to be able to bring your family out here for Christmas or the Fourth of July for a reasonable price, forget it. This wasn't true four decades ago when we all doubled up and rented our places for exorbitant prices, and it isn't going to be true today.
The fact remains that right now, in a fairly busy offseason despite the subnormal autumn, the little closet-size Base2 rooms ("inexpensive by design") would be in the top echelon of room rates. Look it up. Google "Trivago" and see for yourself. Don't trust me — verify. These rates are what the ordinary person could expect to pay right now.
And when the town gets busier, the Base2 rates will rise.
I just checked it again Tuesday with these results: Inn at Aspen, $119; Molly Gibson, $96; Hotel Aspen, $104; Sky Hotel, $160; Gant, $152; Aspen Square, $140; Mountain Chalet, $89; St. Moritz, $73; Tyrolean Lodge, $79; Snow Queen, $99; Annabelle Inn, $119; and Aspen Meadows, $165. So much for affordable Base2 with its tiny rooms.
This entire Base2 proposal is many times bigger than the sum of its parts. Community objections began with the variances the council granted to Base1, which resulted in the passage of a home rule charter amendment to put any further height, bulk, housing and parking variances before the voters.
No sooner had this amendment passed than the council (through a loophole) granted similar variances to Base2, which was followed by community outrage and a petition drive to put the question of Base2 on the ballot.
That's where we are now.
The Base2 proponents keep hammering that the hotel would bring more vitally needed rooms and affordable rooms, and they even go so far as to claim that Base2 would bring youth and egalitarianism back to Aspen. And they threaten that if Base2 is defeated at the polls, the replacement building will be just as big, another repeated lie. Hunt makes a last-minute promise to build underground parking spaces on the site, a promise he would not be obliged to keep.
Meanwhile, you can bet that every developer around is watching this sideshow very, very carefully. If voters approve Base2 with its variances, it will be a signal to the council and developers (and Hunt himself, with more teardowns and rebuilds in the wings) that the window is open in Aspen and, despite the little petitions and referendums, the majority of the electorate wants growth and more of it.
Vote "no" on Base2!
Su Lum is a longtime local who can't keep holding her breath. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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