Proposed Aspen hotel struggles for council approval
pitkin county correspondent
Designs for a large, new hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain near Lift 1A have been modified multiple times to mollify neighbors’ concerns, but it’s still too big for the Aspen City Council’s liking.
The council’s review of conceptual plans for the Lodge at Aspen Mountain were continued to Oct. 24, giving developers time to again revise their project, but spokesman John Sarpa expressed frustration after Monday’s hearing before the council.
It’s disappointing to have finally won the support of the neighboring homeowners associations – the people who are most impacted – but hear opposition from the council, he said.
“I don’t know what else we can do with the height and mass,” he said.
Only Mayor Helen Klanderud said she could accept the size of the building, which encompasses about 185,400 square feet of above-ground space on a site west of South Aspen Street, split by Juan Street. She did object to a “wall” of chimneys that reach roughly 65 feet in height.
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The four council members in attendance praised the changes developers have already made to the project, however, and agreed a hotel belongs at the site. Councilman Jack Johnson recused himself from the review because he resides at the Mine Dump Apartments, which would be razed to make way for the project.
“I support the hotel and the type of activity it brings to the site,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards, but she predicted it would be visible from much of town.
“It will change the character of town – it will simply be too big,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful building as presented. The concept, the idea, is sound,” Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss agreed. “But I’m with Rachel – it’s just too large. The mass is too much, the height is too much.”
The middle section of the building is “enormous” added Councilman Torre, urging the developers to cut back the project.
The Lodge at Aspen Mountain is currently slated to include 85 hotel rooms, 22 fractional suites, four free-market residences and 12 worker housing units.
In all, developers have plans to house about 100 people, but most of the units will be off-site. The on-site housing didn’t thrill the council. “They’re essentially caves,” DeVilbiss said.
Safety on steep South Aspen Street, treacherous in the winter months, must also be addressed, council members added. The council has panned the use of chemical de-icers or an energy-gobbling snowmelt system beneath the pavement, though. Developers are currently looking at a geothermal system – tapping the heat in the ground to keep the street clear of ice and snow, Sarpa said.
Among the handful of citizens who spoke last night, including several resort officials, most praised the project.
“The revitalizing of this part of the city I think would be a welcome thing,” said David Perry, senior vice president of the Aspen Skiing Co.
While neighboring homeowners’ associations have dropped their objections, individual condo owners have continued to raise concerns.
“I’m just very seriously concerned that what we’ve got here is a little out of proportion to the property,” said Shadow Mountain Condominiums owner Michael Mizen.
“It’s a huge change for us to look at this mass out our front window,” added his wife, Peggi Seelbach Mizen.
But the developers have done much to make the project more palatable, she added. “We were really spitting nails a year ago.”
But Don Gilbert, a New York resident and Shadow Mountain owner, called the planned hotel “a blight on the landscape” in a letter to the council.
“If Aspen continues on this path, I think it will be only a matter of time before people begin to wonder, ‘If it’s going to look like Vail, why not just save the trouble and go to Vail?'” he wrote.
“For the sake of those who every day will have to look at this monstrosity, I hope you will give it a speedy rejection.”
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