Neighbors fighting a potential affordable housing project on West Hopkins Avenue are moving to appeal a district court ruling in favor of the developer, although a project representative said a settlement is close that would convert the plans to lodging.
The Boomerang project was first approved as a lodge in 2006, but financing ran aground during the recession and the site — once home to a 1960s ski lodge that was demolished in 2007 — has sat dormant since.
The developer, Aspen FSP-ABR of Maryland, sought and obtained approvals in 2011 to convert the buildings into affordable housing, which some in the neighborhood didn’t want. The housing development was too big, and the full-time residents would clog already congested on-street parking, neighbors argued.
Three of those neighbors sued the developer and the city, claiming council overstepped its jurisdiction when it upzoned the property, and it followed the wrong procedure when it issued incentives to the developer to build the affordable housing.
Judge Gail Nichols of Pitkin County District Court sided with the city and the developers in a June ruling. Since then, the Maryland-based developers have been working on a new proposal to make the Boomerang a lodging project once again, partially in hopes of making peace with the neighbors. The new project would be an economy lodge, according to project representative James DeFrancia.
“We continue to be in very promising negotiations with the neighbors on bringing this to a resolution that will be satisfactory” to the developer, the neighborhood and the city, DeFrancia said Wednesday.
Last week, however, neighbors who are plaintiffs in the case filed a notice of appeal, signaling their intentions to seek a Court of Appeals review of the lower court’s ruling. The five-page notice says the plaintiffs will raise the same issues on appeal as they did in the losing district court effort.
DeFrancia characterized the notice as a strategic move by the plaintiffs to “preserve their rights.” In fact, he said, a settlement agreement could be presented to the judge “within a matter of days.”
“We are very, very close,” he said.
Plaintiffs in the case — Daniel Verner, Staspen LLP and the Christiana Aspen Condominium Association — and their attorney, Lance Cote of Aspen, could not be reached for comment.
DeFrancia in September said the conceptual plan for the lodge consists of around 40 hotel rooms in the 200- to 300-square-foot range, as well as up to 17 two- and three-bedroom condo units that would be sold to individual owners.
“It’s intentionally not service oriented,” DeFrancia said at the time. “It will be efficient, clean and comfortable, but there won’t be food service, room service ... or a bell man to help you with your bags. By definition, that puts it in the economy/affordable price range.”
The project would add up to about 43,000 square feet on half of a city block, spread out through multiple buildings. There also would be a 33-space underground parking garage.
The city has not received a formal application to convert the 2011 affordable housing approval into a lodge. Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon said he believes the project owners are waiting on the outcome of a city initiative to offer incentives for new and redeveloped lodging projects.