Breaks would come when lodges seek building permits to renovate
By Curtis Wackerle
Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Small lodges could get a break from the city government on permit fees and required public infrastructure improvements if they renovate, as an incentive to keep more of the quaint tourist accommodations around and in good shape.
The matter came to the city when the Hotel Durant, a 19-room lodge on Durant Avenue, applied for a building permit to replace windows, upgrade plumbing, build a new deck and undertake other work. As a result, the hotel is facing $42,000 in building permit fees and $17,000 in engineering permit fees for the $700,000 project, according to the property’s owners. Had the proposed work been more extensive, the city would require the lodge to pay an additional $60,000 for a new sidewalk, curb and gutter, and paving in front of the property.
The city’s capital asset director, Scott Miller, in a work session on Tuesday proposed that the city waive those fees for lodges of 60 rooms or less that wish to undertake renovations. The lodges also could get licensed on-street parking spaces from the city as an incentive. The properties would be required to pay the waived fees and the costs of public infrastructure work if they ever converted to a use other than a moderate-priced lodge.
Keeping smaller, moderate-priced lodges from selling out and converting to luxury residential properties is a goal of City Council. Councilman Adam Frisch pointed out that the properties can sometimes be worth three times as much if they redevelop as luxury residential, calling the economics a “conundrum.”
Miller said there are 16 lodges in town that meet the small, moderate-priced criteria.
City Council members were in support of at least examining the small lodge incentives further, and directed staff to proceed with waiving the fees for the Durant project. At a later date, staff will bring forward a more comprehensive incentive proposal for all small lodges.
“This sends the message that we really are in the business of supporting this vital sector,” Mayor Mick Ireland said.
Michael Behrendt, owner of the St. Moritz, a small lodge located on West Hyman Avenue, called the set of incentive proposals “marvelous” at the meeting and encouraged the city to keep talking about how to benefit its stock of small lodges.
Councilman Derek Johnson said he liked the initial proposal, but he wanted to make sure that all small lodges be treated fairly. He also said the city should see if the incentives Miller proposed make sense across the spectrum for small lodges, or if there are other carrots that can be dangled.
Miller noted that not all small lodges in Aspen lack curb and gutter infrastructure, but many would be required to replace their aging curbs and gutters if they undertook a renovation.
Councilman Steve Skadron sounded a note of caution, although he said he wanted to continue the conversation. He said he wanted to see an analysis of how the city’s budget and the services it supports would be affected if all the lodges received $60,000 breaks from the city.
Ireland said the city is better off waiving many of its fees if it can keep the lodges in business and, thus, bringing more tourists to town.