Pitkin County –
Eagle airport closure likely to increase business at Sardy Field
Commercial air traffic at the Eagle County Airport is scheduled to shut down for four and a half months this summer, making it likely that Pitkin County airport will be the choice for more visitors and locals flying in and out of Colorado’s resort areas. Eagle County Airport will close to airlines from April 15-Aug. 31 while the runway undergoes major maintenance. An interim runway will be available for private aircraft. “It’s going to have a favorable impact on our airport,” Stay Aspen Snowmass’s Bill Tomcich told ABOR. “Though how much is difficult to say.” Tomcich said airlines will likely expand service into Aspen when and if demand increases. When Pitkin County Airport was closed for 90 days in 2006, for instance, United Airlines answered the increase in demand with larger Airbus planes on its Denver-Eagle route. In an exclusive interview with ABOR, Pitkin County Airport Director Jim Elwood said the additional service provided by Frontier Airlines puts the airport in a better position to meet the extra demand. “We want to keep residents throughout the entire valley appraised of their options here,” Elwood said. Increased competition has resulted in an increase in the number of people – both visitors and locals – flying between Denver and Aspen, in spite of the severe economic downturn that has gripped the nation.
Runway expansion study proceeding as scheduled
A detailed environmental review of the proposal to extend the runway at Pitkin County Airport is expected to go before the Board of County Commissioners sometime this fall. Denver-based Bernard Dunkleberg & Co. is conducting an environmental assessment of the proposal to be extend the runway 1,000 feet to the east, toward Buttermilk. “We hope that without any further hiccups, we’ll see the environmental assessment completed later this year,” Airport Director Jim Elwood told ABOR. A longer runway would be especially useful in summer, when higher temperatures make it more difficult for fully loaded aircraft to take off safely. Once the environmental assessment is completed, the County Commissioners will decide whether to proceed and apply for federal funds to complete the design work.
Whole Foods at Willits remains in limbo
Representatives from Joseph Freed & Associates, developer of Willits Town Center, are working with their bank, contractors, tenants, and the Town of Basalt to resume work on the Whole Foods building and other projects in the neighborhood. A company spokeswoman told ABOR those negotiations are expected to last at least another month and all parties are working cooperatively. A representative from the regional marketing arm of Whole Foods confirmed that the grocer still has a strong desire to open a store in Willits. “The company still wants to be there and is working with the developer to make it happen,” the Whole Foods spokesperson said.
Basalt weighs in on El Jebel development
Basalt officials are drafting a critique of a proposal to build 319 residences and 95,000 square feet of commercial space directly across Highway 82 from Willits. The Roaring Fork Regional Planning Commission, which advises the Eagle County Commissioners on development matters in the Roaring Fork Valley, delayed its recommendation on the proposal until March, in part so that Basalt could comment. The Basalt Town Council initially requested that the Eagle County Commissioners deny the application and require developer Ace Lane to bring his proposal through the land use process in Basalt. That option is not legal, because Lane’s land is not within town limits. The plan features 128 residences with caps on sales prices and appreciation rates, and limits on assets of buyers; 41 units that must be occupied by full-time, year-round residents; and 150 free-market units. The affordable housing component far exceeds requirements in either Eagle County or Basalt’s land use code. The project is also designed to maximize the use of passive solar systems in each home, and includes an array of solar panels located at the back of the property that would help mitigate energy impacts. The plan includes an extensive network of trails and sidewalks. A big concern is over traffic. Highway 82 will have to absorb commuter traffic from both the Lane development and Willits. Area residents are concerned that once built out, the two projects will cause gridlock through much of West Basalt.
Moratorium extended to allow work on growth management, housing The development moratorium in Basalt has been extended until June10 so that staff and the council can continue their work on major revisions to the land use code. The town is currently working on a growth management system that is similar to the one used by Pitkin County, and an affordable housing program that would add a considerable amount of new deed-restricted housing. At a work session in mid-January, the Town Council set a goal of adding 200 deed-restricted units within the next 3 years. In addition to requiring affordable housing with new projects, the town also plans to explore partnerships with organizations such as the Archdiocese Housing program out of Denver.
Unused growth allotments from 2008 to vanish Eighteen residential unit allotments that went unused in the city of Aspen last year have been extinguished from future use. Approximately 5,200 square feet of unused commercial allotments and the entire annual lodging allotment of 112 pillows have been put to rest as well. City Council voted 4-1 to discard the unused 2008 allotments following a recommendation from the Community Development department. Councilman Duane Romero voted against the idea, saying the City should carry the lodging allotment over into 2009 in order to demonstrate its commitment to reinvigorating its lodge base.
Community visioning under wayThe community visioning process that is part of the latest effort to update the Aspen Area Community Plan continued late last month with large group meetings involving hundreds of community members. People were asked to answer a number of questions on nine separate topics concerning development and the future direction of Aspen. The results from those meeting will be posted on www.aspencommunityvision.com. They will be combined with information gathered in early phases of the visioning process to craft policy documents on growth and development that will then go before City Council for debate and eventual adoption.
Development slows in Aspen, upper valley The pace of development in the City of Aspen has slowed significantly due to a drop in the number of new development applications, the Community Development department is reporting. Development moratoriums in effect in Snowmass Village and Basalt have also slowed the amount of development in the upper valley. In Carbondale, there are several major development applications in the works. The 210-unit Overlook proposal is expected to go before the Town Trustees later this winter. And at least two other significant projects are expected to begin working their way through the Carbondale planning process in the first half of 2009.
Buyers seeking out of Residences at Little NellThree new lawsuits were filed in district court late in January against the Residences at Little Nell by fractional owners of luxury condominiums in the complex at the base of Aspen Mountain. The number of suits by owners attempting to get out of their contracts with the Residences and recover their deposits, claiming their agreements were voided by construction delays, has grown into double digits this month. The lawsuits began last fall, after the Residences notified owners that it would not be fully complete by the beginning of the 2009 ski season, as planned. The developer of the Residences at Little Nell has asked the courts to send several of the disputes into arbitration, where it will seek the earnest money that purchasers used to secure a share of a condo.
Aspen Valley Hospital plan met with skepticism
Aspen Valley Hospital officials and their planning team came before Aspen City Council twice last month to review a plan that would triple the size of the hospital, located a mile up Castle Creek Road from the roundabout. If approved, the new building would be about 220,000 square feet, up from 75,000 today, and include offices on the second floor for doctors who work at the hospital. Hospital CEO Dave Ressler told the council that the expansion is necessary to accommodate existing services and growing demand from the mid-valley. The expansion would also allow AVH’s orthopedics and plastic surgery departments to better serve referral clients from out of town, he said. Construction would occur in three phases, which allows for continuation of services while the work is being done. The proposal has received a generally positive reception from City Council, although concerns have been expressed about the size of the parking garage, at roughly 75,000 square feet, and its likely affect on traffic. There have also been concerns raised over the lack of on-site affordable housing. Mayor Mick Ireland questioned the hospital’s goal to continue serving 70 percent of the population in the mid-valley, which is growing rapidly.
Council sends Lift One plan to voters
Plans to build lodge rooms, fractional condos, wholly-owned free market and affordable condominiums, a new ski lift and a ski history museum will now go before Aspen voters. In a meeting that last nearly 7 hours, the City Council and developers made final adjustments to the plan and the ordinance approving it. The Council then voted 3-1 to put it before the voters. The city attorney’s office will draft ballot language for the May general election.
Snowmass Village –
Compromise reached at Base VillageThe Snowmass Village Town Council agreed in late January to changes to two buildings at Base Village in exchange for developer Related WestPac improving access to the ski area and commercial plaza at the base of Fanny Hill. The town and developer had been at a standstill after Related WestPac said it was discontinuing work on an Arrival Center that was to include access from the transit drop off center to ticketing offices, the children’s center, the commercial plaza and two lifts that serve the mountain. In addition to announcing its plans to stop work on the arrival center, Related WestPac said that in order to proceed with any work, it needed amendments to previous approvals on two buildings, one in the Viceroy Hotel complex and the other being the Little Nell residences and hotel building. Town council initially balked at Related WestPac’s request, demanding that the Arrival Center be completed as originally promised. The access improvements, which include restrooms and lockers, resulted from negotiations between the Town and the developer. Completion of the full building remains on hold.
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February 03, 2009 in