Top Stories –
Push back on Aspen Community VisionReservations over the Aspen Community Development Department’s plans for the Community Vision for the Aspen Area are starting to crop up. A member of the County P&Z told ABOR that both the City and County Planning and Zoning Commissions want to slow the process down. Members were worried that the Community Vision was being seen as a replacement for the Aspen Area Community Plan. “They’re talking about taking a document that has some force of effect and turning it into a community vision,” the County P&Z member said, agreeing to speak with ABOR on the condition of anonymity. Ben Gagnon, a member of Community Development Department who is working on the Community Vision, told ABOR that the idea is to fully incorporate the community vision into the land use code. That would eliminate the need for landowners and developers to gauge projects against two sets of criteria, as is currently the case with the land use code and the AACP. Gagnon said that once the goals from the Community Vision are reflected in the code, then the community’s will on land use will be protected. But the P&Z member wasn’t so sure. “I think the P&Zs would like to turn this document into something that works, and has the force it needs to be a governing document, like the AACP,” the P&Z member said. Two meetings on Tuesday, March 3 will likely determine how the City proceeds. The County P&Z meets with the County Commissioners at 4 p.m. to discuss next steps, and the Aspen P&Z meets with the City Council at 5:30 p.m. to do the same
Light at the end of Basalt’s moratorium tunnelPublic review of proposed changes to Basalt’s land use code is slated to begin this month, setting the stage for the end of a yearlong moratorium on new development . Joint meetings of the Basalt Town Council and Planning & Zoning Commission are tentatively scheduled for March 10 and March 24 to review language that will add a growth management system and stricter affordable housing requirements to the code. “Our goal is to lift the moratorium by June 10,” town planner James Lindt told ABOR. The proposed growth management system is modeled after Pitkin County’s, and would score development applications against a “Community Priorities” list. There would be a maximum amount of development allowed each year, so the applications that score highest have the best chance of getting built. Proposed changes to the housing rules are designed to allow the Town more flexibility in negotiations with developers of both residential and commercial properties. With commercial developments, Basalt’s land use code currently requires developers to provide deed-restricted housing for 20 percent of the employees generated. The language to go before the P&Z and Town Council ups that to 25 percent. By comparison, Eagle County requires commercial developers to house 55 percent of the employees generated, and Pitkin County 60 percent. Projects in Aspen have been facing a 100 percent hurdle lately. “The town is trying to encourage – not discourage – a certain amount of commercial development ,” Lindt told ABOR.
Lift 1A townhouses remain a possibilityAspen City Council extended the vested rights for a townhouse project that may be built if Aspen voters don’t approve the Lift One Master Plan in May. The master plan includes hotel and fractional rooms and condominiums on one side of Aspen Street, and a private lodge with lock-off rentals on the other side. It also includes a 50-foot wide ski easement, affordable commercial space in the Skiers Chalet Steakhouse, public ski lockers and a ski museum. Centurion Partners, which owns the property on the west side of Aspen Street in the Lift One neighborhood was granted an extension on its 2003 approval for 14 luxury townhouses and 17 affordable housing units.
The master plan is scheduled to go before voters on May 5.
Art Museum seeks voter approval for move into townThe Aspen Art Museum hopes to put a ballot question before city voters this May that would lay the groundwork for a new museum downtown. The petition asks Aspen City Council to refer a question asking city of Aspen voters to approve the sale of the former Youth Center building, located behind the Pitkin County Courthouse. Both the city and the museum are conducting appraisals on the land, and will have to agree on an appropriate sale price before the March 23 deadline for placing a question on the ballot.
End to the days of free parking sparks protestThe end of free parking in Apsen has provoked protests from day care teachers at the Yellow Brick building in Aspen’s West End. Day care is a low-paying profession, making the new $7-per-day fee more burdensome. Free parking in Aspen’s residential areas ended in February, when the city implemented a plan to charge drivers who park for more than two hours in a given residential zone. City transportation officials estimate that thousands of motorists have engaged over the years in the so-called two-hour shuffle, leaving their work every few hours to move their car around the corner or down the block. Yellow Brick employees are circulating a petition asking for relief.
Aspen considers offer on BMC West siteThe city of Aspen received an offer last month from an undisclosed party to purchase the BMC West lumberyard site. The city purchased the 4.6-acre site at the Aspen Airport Business Center for $18.25 million in December 2007. The property is adjacent to another 3-acre parcel owned by the city, creating a locale for as many as 100 affordable housing units. No appraisal was conducted prior to that purchase. City officials at the time said there was no time for an appraisal because others were making offers on the property. A subsequent audit from a local appraiser has not been made public. City Council is expected to review the offer on the BMC parcel in executive session.
Off-season rebirth for the Red OnionManagement of Junk at the Red Onion — as the once legendary watering hole will be branded — said it will be late April or early May before the restaurant opens. The remodel process on the 117-year-old building has been led by Poss Architecture and Hansen Construction, which stripped the interior of the building down to its core before beginning the remodeling work.
Ski area hours extendedWith longer daylight hours, the Aspen Skiing Co. has extended lift hours of operation at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain. At Snowmass, the Elk Camp Gondola, Village Express and Sheer Bliss chairs will run until 4 p.m. On Aspen Mountain, The Silver Queen Gondola and Ajax Express chair will also stay open until 4 p.m.
Basalt picks Kane as managerLongtime local Bill Kane will start as the new town manager in Basalt on March 9. Kane is currently a principal with Design Workshop in Aspen. He has held some relatively high-profile positions in Aspen, including planning director for the city of Aspen and Pitkin County from 1974 to 1978, and vice president of planning for the Aspen Skiing Co. from 1996 to 2005.
Whole Foods at Willits questionableThe head of Whole Foods Market warned last month that the firm may shrink, delay or abandon plans for new stores in cases where landlords default on leases. John Mackey, chairman and CEO of the natural grocer chain, said the company has drastically reduced its growth plan to improve its cash flow in tough economic times. Mackey didn’t refer to any other specific store locations, but his comments havve implications for Basalt. Chicago-based developer Joseph Freed & Associates (JFA) began to build a 44,000-square-foot supermarket at Willits Town Center, but has stopped work due to lack of financing. The building was originally due to be completed by June. Representatives from both the chain and the developer have said they are renegotiating their contract.
Basalt looks to avoid commercial 'dead zone'Basalt officials unveiled plans last month to prevent the downtown core from being a “dead zone” dominated by more real estate offices and banks. Existing businesses will be allowed to remain along Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road, but new zoning regulations will be written to prevent a proliferation of professional offices. Basalt is dealing with a common problem: Vitality is lost in old mining towns as shops, saloons and restaurants are replaced by real estate firms and other professional offices. The downtown vitality initiative is part of the overhaul of Basalt’s land use code.
Basalt chamber growingThe Basalt Chamber of Commerce announced that membership grew by approximately 15 percent last year, to more than 400 members. The officers this year are the same as last, including President David Fiore of Western Peak; Vice President Brad Elliott of Brad Elliott Architects; and Secretary/Treasurer Tony Thompson of Alpine Bank. Lis Connors, a broker with Chaffin Light Real Estate and Lindsey Carlson, sales and marketing manager for Joseph Freed and Associates, both joined the board.
Recession a reality at town hallBasalt’s sales tax revenues fell more than 11 percent in December 2008, to $411,993. The biggest surprise was a slight decrease in revenues from the retail food category, which includes the El Jebel City Market. Sales tax revenues in that category were $217,663 — or down 0.38 percent. Business was down across the town’s entire economy.- Lodging, down 81 percent- Building materials, down 42 percent- Retail, down 36 percent- Sporting goods, down 20 percent- Restaurants, down 6 percent
Snowmass Village –
Romero takes top job at Related WestPacBase Village developer Related WestPac promoted Dwayne Romero Friday to president, allowing now former president and CEO Pat Smith to step away from day-to-day operations. Smith, who formed the company in November 2006 to acquire Base Village, is keeping his investment stake, according to a Related WestPac press release. Romero is two years into his first term on Aspen City Council. He said he would continue to serve on City Council, but that it wasn’t likely he would run for mayor. Romero now reports directly to Ken Wong, vice chairman of New York-based Related Companies, the managing partner of the joint venture partnership Smith’s WestPac.
Town, Related WestPac reach agreement on Little Nell, ViceroyRelated WestPac received approval from Snowmass Village Town Council for a luxury condominium hotel to be operated by Aspen’s five-star Little Nell Hotel. The Council also approved changes to the second building of the Viceroy hotel, a four-star condominium hotel that is expected to open next ski season. The two hotels will total more than 250 new units in Base Village. The approvals come with the obligation to provide elevators and an escalator for bus riders arriving in Base Village, as well as a small building with lockers and bathrooms for day skiers. The makeshift arrival center is a compromise. It’s estimated cost of $2 million is much less than the original Welcome Center envisioned in the Base Village approvals. The dispute over the Welcome Center delayed approvals on the Little Nell and Viceroy applications.
Base Village opening softens recession’s blowSnowmass Village sales tax collections were off 10 percent this last December compared to December 2007, and almost 1 percent up for the year as a whole, according to data released by the town. Town officials speculate that things would have been worse without the opening of Base Village. By comparison, Aspen sales taxes were down 19 percent this past December, and up 0.5 percent over 2007 for the year.
Town Hall land seen as possible affordable housing siteSnowmass Village officials are considering a plan to build as many as 76 seasonal affordable housing units on land the town owns behind Town Hall. Aspen-based Design Workshop is developing recommendations for the so-called Draw Site, a 17-acre parcel. Rental housing was last built in Snowmass Village in 1999.
Pitkin County –
Growth management system may see changesRevisions to the scoring system for Pitkin County’s growth management rules are expected later this spring or early summer, Assistant Community Development Director Lance Clarke told ABOR. The changes would be part of an ongoing effort to make adjustment to the land use code, which underwent major amendments in 2006. Clarke said he couldn’t be specific about how the system would be changed, simply saying that it’s become apparent that adjustments need to be made. The growth management system requires developers to apply for limited development rights available each year. Applications are scored against criteria outlined in the land use code, and development rights are assigned to projects that best meet or exceed those criteria.
Work continues on plan for ABCPitkin County’s assistant community development director, Lance Clarke, told ABOR that the county is working to complete a new sub-area master plan for the Aspen Business Center this year. Ideally, the ABC plan will be finished at the same time as the Community Vision for the Aspen Area is incorporated into the city of Aspen Land Use Code, Clarke said. There have been five public meetings so far, and more are expected before county staff puts together a formal proposal for the Board of County Commissioners.
Garfield County –
Development the size of Silt begins review process on March 11Related WestPac is seeking approval from Garfield County to build 1,006 homes at the confluence of Cattle Creek and the Roaring Fork River, halfway between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. If approved, the project would result in about 1.6 million square feet of new housing — enough living space for 2,100 people. The project has been dubbed “Cattle Creek Colorado” (without a comma). There are no plans to incorporate the community, which would be about the same size as Silt. Economic consultants hired by Related WestPac value the project at $539 million. Garfield County’s planning commission begins its review of the application on March 11.
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March 02, 2009 in