Lift One Lodge wants time to respond to third-party study’s findings

Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Owners of the Lift One Lodge property on South Aspen Street will ask Aspen City Council next week to extend its vested development rights to keep the door open to a location farther down South Aspen Street for a new Lift 1A chairlift.

A third-party study by the SE Group to consider alternatives to a new lift location as well as the shuttle bus solution proposed by developers of the Gorsuch Haus lodge, should be complete by the end of May, according to Jennifer Phelan, deputy planning director for the city of Aspen.

“We remain open minded about lift alternatives,” said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. SkiCo owns the land where the 81-key, 84,500-square-foot Gorsuch Haus project and an adjacent quad chairlift are proposed by developers Norway Island LLC, which includes retailer Jeff Gorsuch, realtor Bryan Peterson and others.

SkiCo in late 2015 received approval from the U.S. Forest Service to replace the old chairlift but has said it will only do so with a coordinated base area plan. The sale of SkiCo’s land to Norway Island LLC, which includes the existing Lift 1A chair site and gravel parking lot, is believed contingent upon the developers receiving project approval from the city.

 

Gorsuch Haus would be located just uphill from the Lift One Lodge property, which has had approvals in place for a 76,000-square-foot, 22-unit fractional project since Ord. 28, series of 2011 was passed in November of that year. The shuttered Skier’s Chalet steakhouse, located within the Lift One Lodge property boundaries, would be converted to deed-restricted housing; the Skier’s Chalet Lodge would be repurposed from employee housing to a ski museum.

Lift One Lodge’s original vesting was supposed to run until Nov. 28, 2016, but in 2015, brothers Michael and Aaron Brown and Los Angeles developer Jason Grosfeld received their first vesting extension on the project. It now runs through Nov. 28, 2018. Vesting is essentially a guarantee that the land-use requirements in place during the time of approval continue until a certain date .

In 2016, the city’s planning and zoning commission approved an amendment for Lift One Lodge to convert about 18,000 square feet of space previously designated for the private Roaring Fork Club to restaurant and commercial usage.

Dialogue between the potential Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge neighbors has been icy in the past, though both the city and public have pushed for communications to remain open between the principals.

Richard Shaw, who is tasked with planning the Gorsuch Haus development, said their team has been in a “holding pattern” since the application was tabled by the city in March, but added, “We’re hopeful to re-engage with city council and the process in the near term.

“When the lift report process is completed, we’ll see what good ideas result from that. Then we can move forward in a continuation of the review of the project,” Shaw said Thursday. Asked whether Norway Island LLC would fund the lift report study, he said those details “are still being worked out.”

Lift One Lodge principal Michael Brown did not respond to requests for comment about the vesting extension and the owners’ interest in the location of a new lift to replace the 45-year-old Lift 1A.

According to city planner Hillary Seminick, “They are pursuing a request for an extension of vested rights to allow the owners of lots one and two (the Lift One Lodge properties) time for the city, Aspen Skiing Co. and potential Gorsuch Haus project to assess options to relocate the Shadow Mountain Lift, or Lift 1A.”

Shaw said the Lift One Lodge owners made it clear last month to the city their intention when they “indicated they were willing and open to a discussion about the lift relative to their project.” He also said there were no talks “to my knowledge” ongoing between Gorsuch Haus and Lift One Lodge principals.

Hanle said SkiCo representatives have not met with the Brown family recently, “but intend to discuss lift recommendations with the city staff, Browns and Norway Island team once the SE Group analysis commissioned by the city is available for review.”

Little support for rubber tire solution

The lift study comes at council’s behest after voting in March to table the application by Norway Island LLC.

The project’s size, which was slimmed down by 13 percent from an earlier proposal, was seen as a good first step, but did not meet the city’s requested 30 percent reduction. Other significant changes to Gorsuch Haus that preceded its most recent review included breaking the project into two buildings and presenting architecture with a more prominent alpine design that appeared to please the majority of elected officials.

As important in the eyes of council to the project size and mass is exhausting all solutions for access to a second portal. Gorsuch’s initial proposal for shuttles that would service the hotel and chairlift have not been embraced by neighbors nor city staff.

In the early 1970s, the chairlift was moved uphill from the historic site of the original Aspen Mountain Lift 1 and its relocation impacted usage and the neighborhood dynamics. A series of cooperative neighborhood meetings that involved the developer and elected officials about a decade ago did not meet the goals of either side for profitability, neighborhood vitality and a lift that descended farther down South Aspen Street.

Currently underway in the neighborhood is construction of One Aspen, a 65,000-square-foot free market condominium project that includes about 12,000 square feet of affordable housing on nearby Juan Street.

Aspen City Council will hear Lift One Lodge’s three-year vesting rights extension request on May 22 during a public hearing. According to Seminick, vested rights are granted by a resolution and do not require a first reading of the ordinance.

A revitalized Lift 1A portal is among the mandates that the International Ski Federation (FIS) has posed to Aspen ski racing organizers before the prestigious alpine races return to this venue.

Following what was regarded as a wildly successful 2017 World Cup Finals, the U.S. Ski Association confirmed that the Thanksgiving weekend women’s ski race dates that have been run in Aspen for more than a decade would be hosted by Killington, Vt., for the next two years.

Twitter, @Madski99