Council also want to look at ways to keep condos in rental pool
The city of Aspen should explore incentives to encourage the redevelopment of existing condos and lodges, but they should come with a catch that the new and improved properties stay in the tourist rental pool, council members said Tuesday.
City planning staff briefed council members during a work session on a study they conducted on the lodging sector, which contained numerous finding of interest. The study found that Aspen is losing ground to other ski resorts, which are investing in new lodging infrastructure, and that Aspen suffers from a lack of diversity and quantity in its lodging options.
“We could become a less desirable destination for the next generation because of the competition we are seeing from other resorts,” city long range planner Jessica Garrow told the council.
The study also showed that condominiums make up 40 percent of Aspen’s tourist bed base. However, that condominium stock is aging, and significant hurdles exist for property owners who want to redevelop.
Many condo complexes were built before more restrictive zoning took hold, and therefore cannot undertake renovations unless owners are willing to downsize, Garrow said.
Council members were receptive to ideas such as allowing condo complexes to maintain the size and massing they were approved under if they renovate.
There was support on the three-member board (Councilman Art Daily is on vacation and one council seat is currently vacant) for exploring ways to streamline the approval process and provide relief on city fees for condo complexes and lodges that seek redevelopment.
Community development director Chris Bendon called council’s attention to one potential downside to condo redevelopment: There appears to be a correlation between expensive renovations and condos being taken out of the rental pool.
There could be many reasons for this, council members surmised. Perhaps after an expensive remodel, the condos are more likely to be flipped to investors, or maybe the owners are simply less excited to rent the property to strangers after sprucing them up.
But if the city is going to provide fee relief and incentives to encourage redevelopment, then it should at least explore the possibility of requiring property owners to keep the condos in the rental pool, council members said.
Council members said their first priority for improving Aspen’s bed base is to focus on existing condos and lodges. They didn’t back any specific proposals to encourage the development of new lodges.
Although council chambers were full of people representing Aspen’s lodging community, Mayor Steve Skadron, who has been on the job about two weeks, said he would like to end the previous mayor’s practice of taking public comment during work sessions. He said he would prefer to keep work session discussions between council and staff, and not allow them to become “quasi public hearings.” The meeting ended after about an hour and a half without public comment.
The city is offering an open house on Thursday at noon for people to come and provide feedback on what the city can do to encourage redevelopment of existing properties and new lodging. Refreshments will be served, Bendon said.