A new plan for the former site of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain near the base of Lift 1A seems to take a bad option and make it worse. Instead of building a lodge, which was the subject of years of arduous debate, landowners who bought the site out of bankruptcy in 2010 want to revert back to a 2003 approval for residential townhomes and affordable housing units. But instead of the approved plan for 14 luxury homes and 17 deed-restricted units, the new developers want to build all the free-market condos, but just 10 of the worker units at the site. Under the plan, eight more employee units would be built at the Aspen Airport Business Center, about 3 miles downvalley.
Initial reaction to the plan in a first reading before Aspen City Council last week was harsh, and why wouldn’t be? What the community really wants for the site, which is one of the last remaining parcels of developable land at the base of Aspen Mountain, is a lodge. If we are going to settle for residential development — not the end of the world, certainly — then please don’t short us on in-town affordable housing units. Still in high demand despite the toll the recession has taken on all sectors of the housing market, in-town affordable units take cars off Highway 82 and ensure a vibrant, year-round community.
True, City Council did vote down a plan in 2009 that would have allowed two ski lodges, including the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, for the neighborhood. The plan was hashed out over eight months with 27 community members, and had significant support. But it was considered too big by two City Council members, enough to prevent approval. After that, one of the lodges — known as the Lift One Lodge — was approved individually. The other developers went back to the drawing board, and were working on a plan that significantly scaled back the proposed hotel from 180,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet. We thought the proposal was on the right track, but then the recession struck, and the plan went away before it could be voted on again.
We hope that the new developers can figure out a way to revive the effort to build a lodge that would be acceptable to the community, and not some too-big, overly high-end parked cruise ship. City Hall should give them all the breathing room they need to continue working on that option. But if that is not going to happen, then keep more locals inside the roundabout with the previous townhomes plan that included more in-town affordable housing.
If you care about whether Sardy Field’s airport terminal grows to as much as 80,000 square feet, the library expansion, water issues or maintaining a tourism economy, then you better pay attention to the primary campaign for an open seat on the board of Pitkin County commissioners and vote in the June 26 election.
The new commissioner will be one of the five responsible for the future of these issues, as well as hundreds of others facing Pitkin County and its residents.
Ballots will arrive in the mail this week and the four candidates vying for one seat are ramping up their campaigns with literature, public appearances and other stumping.
Voters in this month’s election will narrow the field of four down to two in a June 26 primary, with a general election to follow on Nov. 6.
Four well-known, longtime locals are competing for the seat being vacated by three-term District 4 Commissioner Jack Hatfield. The district includes Snowmass Village, Old Snowmass and the Castle Creek Valley, but all registered county voters can cast ballots in the primary.
The campaigns of Steve Child, Darryl Grob, John Wilkinson and John B. Young have been fairly quiet until now but voters can expect that they’ll be out in front of them in the next three weeks with their ideas and positions. All four appear to be qualified; Pitkin County residents should feel lucky to have a good field from which to chose.
It is every resident’s democratic duty to educate themselves and vote on their preferred choice. We urge voters to get informed by attending public debates and by reaching out to the candidates to learn their positions.
There will be a debate among the four candidates this Wednesday during the Aspen Business Luncheon at the Hotel Jerome and likely another one sponsored by local media in the coming weeks.
GrassRoots TV is airing a series of hour-long interviews with each candidate online. The series will run through the election.
Here are the links to view them:
• Probe Line 2012 with Steve Child, candidate for Pitkin County Commissioner, http://www.grassrootstv.org/Show.aspx?ShowID=10862 
• Probe Line 2012 with John Wilkinson, candidate for County Commissioner, http://www.grassrootstv.org/Show.aspx?ShowID=10863 
• Probe Line 2012 with John B. Young, candidate for County Commissioner, http://www.grassrootstv.org/Show.aspx?ShowID=10842 
• Probe Line 2012 with Darryl Grob, candidate for County Commissioner, http://www.grassrootstv.org/Show.aspx?ShowID=10843 .