Issue committee formed to fight redevelopment of base of Aspen Mountain

Formal opposition has been assembled against the Lift One Corridor Plan that Aspen voters are deciding in this winter’s election.

Alex Biel, an Aspen resident who lives across from one of the proposed hotels that’s in the plan, filed an issue committee with the city Thursday called the “Committee to Improve Lift 1 Corridor Plan.”

Biel, who lives on South Aspen Street in the Shadow Mountain Townhomes, said he plans to raise money to actively campaign against the corridor plan.

“I just don’t think they have the right package,” he said Thursday. “We want to bring facts to the minds of the voters.”

The plan, which was referred to voters by Aspen City Council, includes two new lodges, a telemix chairlift accessed at Dean Street, a relocated Skiers Chalet Lodge housing a ski museum, skier services and ski patrol, and a refurbished Skiers Chalet Steakhouse refashioned into a restaurant and bar.

Developers of the proposed Gorsuch Haus, a 64,000-square-foot hotel and the Lift One Lodge, a 107,000-square-foot timeshare project, are behind the campaign promoting the passage of the ballot question.

Their issue campaign called “One for Aspen” has spent more than $67,000 on community and public relations and advertising thus far, according to a finance campaign filing made this week with the city.

Biel said he has raised nowhere near that amount but hopes to raise issues that haven’t been front and center in the lead-up to the March 5 election.

“It’s not how much you raised but what you say,” he said. “I’m concerned the campaign that the developers are running doesn’t talk about the development but just the lift.”

The One for Aspen campaign focuses on the revitalization of a dilapidated base of a world-class ski area, bringing World Cup racing back to the community and the yearslong collaboration with the city, Aspen Skiing Co. and both development teams to bring the chairlift down to Dean Street, which was requested by elected officials.

“Having a vibrant and active bed base and dining opportunities creates the vitality and makes the placement of the lift work as a second portal to Aspen Mountain,” said campaign spokesman Allyn Harvey. “Historically, this neighborhood was comprised mostly of lodges and restaurants long before and after the lift was moved up the hill.”

Biel said he is primarily against the Gorsuch Haus because it is planned to be built on land currently zoned “conservation” and is too large to be on the ski slope.

The ballot question asks voters to change the zoning to “lodging” to allow for a hotel as part of two land-use ordinances that combined are 88 pages long.

Voters also are asked to convert the use of city open space for ski operations and to support paying $4.36 million in taxpayer money toward the plan as part of a public-private partnership.

Biel said he resents that the public and the city are being asked for money.

“It takes a lot of hutzpah to ask the city for money,” he said.

Biel said he supports Lift One Lodge since it was first approved in 2011, as well as a gondola-chairlift for possible nighttime business to a reopened on-mountain Ruthie’s Restaurant.

But he said he doesn’t think that side of Aspen Mountain can attract enough business to sustain two hotels and multiple bars and restaurants.

And he said he believes the developers should be providing more affordable housing.

Lift One Lodge and Gorsuch are providing housing at a 30 percent and 25 percent mitigation rate, respectively, which is allowable under the city’s land-use code through lodge incentives.

“It’s embarrassing that they haven’t manned up on the affordable housing,” Biel said.

Harvey said the projects’ sales and real estate transfer tax revenue generation would bring in more than $42 million over the next 30 years, which funds the affordable-housing program.

“It’s going to generate an enormous amount of support,” he said.

The registered agent listed on the issue committee filing is a woman named Enna Kutz, who is not a registered voter in Aspen. She did not return a voicemail message on Thursday.

Biel, who has owned his townhome since the 1980s, lives here full time.