The Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday shot down a local limousine company’s proposal to run a valet service at the Aspen airport, with one board member saying he didn’t want to turn the facility into another Caribou Club.
Rocky Mountain Limousine, in a plan submitted to airport officials, said the service would “augment the luxury experience of visiting the Aspen area” and would be better for the environment. According to the plan, that’s because the valet service would cut down on the need for shuttles and taxis, which often are empty of passengers on one leg of the airport run.
Airport staff felt the service could be a “value-added amenity” for visitors, wrote assistant aviation director Brian Grefe in a memo to the commissioners. He and airport director Jim Elwood spoke before the board Tuesday.
There have been a handful of informal proposals for such a service over the past several years, Grefe said.
Rocky Mountain Limousine principal Richard Lamping was seeking to lease 50 public parking spaces, a number at which Commissioner Rachel Richards balked. She questioned where the average person would park when spaces are scarce during high seasons.
“I think there could be a huge downside of people feeling disenfranchised because they’re not able to pay for an expensive service,” Richards said.
Commissioner George Newman agreed, saying he didn’t “see our airport being a Caribou Club,” referencing the private drinking and dining establishment on Hopkins Avenue. Giving up public spaces at a public airport for a premium service is not a good idea, he said.
The proposal was “far off-base in terms of accuracy” in regards to the environmental claims, Newman added. Vehicles would still be driven to the airport, he said.
“It’s not a service we need, period,” echoed Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
He, too, said he “didn’t buy any of this stuff about the carbon footprint.”
“We would have more driving rather than less because the cars have to be parked,” Hatfield said.
Elwood said his staff felt much the same way but they wanted to communicate to the commissioners that there is interest in the concept.
Among other operational challenges, the curb area outside the main terminal is already crowded at times and is not designed to also handle a valet station, Elwood said.
He said he will tell Rocky Mountain Limousine that it’s not the right time for the plan.