July 2009

End of the Free Ride

End of the Free Ride
The Town of Snowmass Village is starting to crack down on short term rental taxes.  Homeowners renting their property for less than thirty days owe 12.98% of their revenue to the town.  The tax disbursement is as follows: 2.4% for marketing, .5% for RFTA, and 9.9% go to sales tax.  Town council members are noticing a large number of local rental listings on various Internet sites.  The focus on this tax is in part due to the declining sales tax revenues for the town.  Reports state that tax revenues are down 16.16% through May.
Posted by rebecca on July 31, 2009 in

Aspen Reports $43 million Real Estate Sale

Aspen Reports $43 million Real Estate Sale

$43 Million Estate Sells in Aspen, Colorado (Joshua & Co. | News Release)
July 13, 2009 – Joshua & Co., the exclusive Aspen affiliate of Christie’s Great Estates, announces the closing today of a real estate transaction valued at $43,000,000.   The property is located at the base of Red Mountain on Willoughby Way, one of Aspen’s most prestigious neighborhoods. Joshua Saslove, president and founder of Joshua & Co., represented the Seller; Newton Bartley, also of Joshua & Co., represented the purchaser. The Seller was represented by the law firm of Krabacher & Sanders P.C. by Joe Krabacher.  The Buyer was represented by the law firm of Garfield & Hecht P.C. by Chris LaCroix.  Title Company of the Rockies was the escrow agent for the transaction.  This represents the largest single family residence sale in the United States for 2009 and one of the largest on record for the state of Colorado.  Other noted sales by Joshua & Co include the sale of the Historic Hotel Jerome in downtown Aspen in 2007 for $55,000,000, Mandalay Ranch in 2004 for $46,000,000 and Crystal Island Ranch in 2006 for $47,000,000.  Garfield & Hecht, P.C. also represented the Seller of Mandalay Ranch and one of the largest investors in the Hotel Jerome transaction.  

Posted by rebecca on July 13, 2009 in

Town probably 90 percent full according to officials

Town probably 90 percent full according to officials
The marriage of the Fourth of July celebrations and the Aspen Ideas Fest nearly filled up not only local lodges but Sardy Field.  Private jet traffic not only matched last year, but may have exceeded previous years according to local officials.  Last minute hotel bookings are also at an all time high, according to Bill Tomcich of Stay Aspen Snowmass.  He is quoted as saying "Occupancy will probably turn out to be in the 90 percent range this year, matching last year's bookings."
Posted by rebecca on July 10, 2009 in

Aspen Board of Realtors July Observer

Aspen Board of Realtors July Observer

The Observer – July 2009



Property taxes front and center


More than a third of Pitkin County property owners protested their latest property valuations from the county assessors office.


In all, 4,576 protests were filed, with notices of denial sent back to 2,877. Valuation adjustments were made in 1,699 cases.


Property valuations for tax purposes rose between 30 and 60 percent up and down the Roaring Fork Valley.


The issue will likely remain in the news for several weeks, as property owners who aren’t satisfied with the initial outcome file appeals to their local Board of Equalization.


And just as the property valuation issue is settled later this summer, the question of tax rates will then come into play.


Many of the 40-plus taxing districts in Pitkin County, including the county and town governments, are required to lower their mill levies, and thus their property tax rates, because they are subject to the state Constitution’s Bruce Amendment, which limits annual property tax increases to inflation plus population growth.


But a number of smaller taxing districts – from fire protection districts to special taxing districts to neighborhood-specific metro districts – have been “De-Bruced” by voters, relieving them from the Constitutional limits.


In those districts, it’s up to the board of directors to decide whether or not to adjust mill levies to keep collections in line with historical averages.


Colorado Mountain College, which has been de-Bruced, has indicated it may not adjust the mill levy it uses to set property taxes. Officials at the Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District have also said they might not adjust their mill levy.


If no adjustments are made, property owners in those taxing districts will pay considerably more to CMC and Snowmass Wildcat next year than they did this year. Other taxing districts are considering what to do next as well.


Aspen —   


Lift 1A hotels formally separated


An agreement to jointly plan a membership lodge and a hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain has officially been dissolved.


Roaring Fork Lodging Co. will now pursue approval to build Lift One Lodge, a membership lodge, separately from Centurion Partners’ Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a combination hotel and fractional ownership condominium project.


Roaring Fork Lodging Co. and Centurion Partners had been working together with the City and a citizen committee on a master plan for the neighborhood immediately below Lift 1A.


The master plan approved by the committee included a surface tow lift and ski/snowboard easement from Dean Street to Lift 1A, 100 percent affordable housing mitigation from both developers, restaurants, affordable ski lockers and a ski museum. The two hotels totaled nearly 300,000 square feet of new development.


The master plan stalled in City Council on a 2-2 vote. A proposal to send it to voters was rejected by the developers.


The dissolution returns the developers to the place in the land use process that they were at before the master plan committee was appointed.


Centurion Partners representative John Sarpa is expected to go before City Council July 12 to request the formation of a new citizen committee to review his firm’s latest proposal for 74 hotel rooms and 26 fractional ownership condominiums. Centurion already has an existing approval for townhomes and affordable housing on its land on the west side of Aspen Street.


Roaring Fork Lodging Co. has a pending application for a private membership lodge, which would require relocation of Lift 1A further up the hill, in the approval process. It will go back under review later this summer.


Priorities debated in Wheeler addition


A proposed addition to the Wheeler Opera House includes a 24,000-square-foot glass and sandstone lobby and ticket office, a 275-seat underground performance space, meeting rooms and office space and a fourth-floor apartment for visiting artists.


It would be located in the small park between the Wheeler and the Mother Lode building.


Members from the Aspen’s Historic Preservation and Planning and Zoning commissions have four more meetings – the next on July 8 – planned before sending the project on to Aspen City Council.


The review is now focusing on a few main points: The apartment for visiting artists, the functionality of the lobby and outdoor space and how to best meld the addition’s design to the historic Wheeler.


Ordinance 48 offer on table for post-war home


The first post-World War II Aspen home to go through the negotiation process for historic designation under Ordinance 48 remains in limbo after the City Council declined to meet all of the homeowner’s requests.


Suzanne Foster, owner of what the city calls a “modern chalet” at 219 S. Third St., wants to add 900-square-feet to the rear corner of the 1,700-square-foot home, subdivide the lot and build a 2,400-square-foot home on the new lot.


The City Council did agree to setback variances and other concessions, but wasn't comfortable with the proposal for a new 2,400-square-foot home right next to the historic home, which would be 2,600 square feet once all the changes were made. Nor did most of the neighbors in the area.


The lot split would allow a 1,900 square foot home, but Foster says that’s not enough.


Ordinance 48, passed in 2007, identified 89 post-war Aspen properties with historic value. Owners on the list must go through a 90-day period of negotiation with the city if they plan significant alteration or demolition. The idea is for the city to offer incentives to get the owner to voluntarily designate their property historic, but if they can’t come to an agreement, the owner can move forward


Foster has 30 days to decide whether to accept the city’s proposal and designate the home historic.



Housing office wants to sell problematic units


The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority would like to sell a dozen deed-restricted units on the free market.


Residents of the units in question, all of which are located in free-market complexes, have at times faced huge special assessments or other fees that their free-market neighbors approve.


One couple turned to the housing board for help after their homeowners association slapped them with a $200,000 assessment — more than they paid for the unit.


The other 11 units would be sold when owners leave or when a large assessment makes it too expensive for them to stay in the unit. Such owners would be given priority on the next available unit in the affordable housing stock.


The housing authority has also proposed ending the practice of accepting so-called “buy-downs” — free-market units that are purchased and deed-restricted as housing mitigation unless future fees and assessments are pro-rated to reflect the unit's reduced value as employee housing.


The plan still requires approval by the City Council and Pitkin County commissioners.


Contract approved for Castle Creek hydro plant architecture


Aspen City Council approved a contract for architectural engineering services on the Castle Creek Energy Center, a major component of the Castle Creek hydropower project approved by voters in 2007.


The 3,500-square-foot energy center will be located under the Castle Creek Bridge on Power Point Road. It will house a turbine that converts the energy from Castle Creek into 5.5 million kilowatt hours of electric power per year, enough for 655 Aspen homes.


Reno-Smith Architects did the conceptual design work for building, and will now focus on minimizing noise from the plant. The project is scheduled for completion by Fall 2010.


Aspen prevails in lawsuit over housing at Highlands


District Court Judge Gail Nichols ruled in favor of the city of Aspen and the housing authority in a case that attempted to lift the deed restrictions on 12 dorm units at Aspen Highlands.


Ronald Myerstein argued that the deed restrictions placed are unenforceable and unconstitutional. He relied on Colorado Supreme Court's 2000 decision invalidating Telluride's affordable-housing guideline, where the justices ruled that Telluride’s guidelines violated a 1981 prohibition on rent control.


Because the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has an interest in the property, Nichols said the regulations aren’t affected by the Telluride ruling. She also found that Myerstein knew of the deed restrictions when he bought the condos in 2005 from Hines Development .


Lodging tax vote to be limited


Aspen City Council agreed to limit voting on a new 1 percent lodging tax to the 750 or so people living within the proposed taxing district’s boundaries. The council also added a five-year sunset provision to the tax.


The new tax would be in addition to the existing 0.5 percent lodging tax. It would be used to enhance the marketing budget at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.


Two public hearings will be held on the related ordinance it is officially sent to voters, so changes to the voting plan and sunset provision may still occur. The first public hearing is scheduled for July 13 at City Hall.




Deposits refunded at Little Nell Residences


Three months after halting construction on the Little Nell Residences at Snowmass, Related WestPac is returning deposits and terminating contracts with would-be buyers of the luxury units.


The contracts required that the units be ready by the summer of 2010, a deadline that Related WestPac President Dwayne Romero Romero says can’t reasonably be met.


Related WestPac didn’t use the deposit money for construction, as it was entitled to do by contract, allowing the money to be refunded. Romero said would-be buyers have generally been positive about the refunds, which are being returned with interest.


School district housing planned next Anderson Ranch


The Aspen School District recently bought 0.89 acres of land from Anderson Ranch Arts Center for $1.9 million to build 18 to 22 units of teacher housing.


The project would include up to 24,000 square feet of housing, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The school district plans to use modular construction and has set a goal of opening the doors on the rental housing for teachers by August 2010.


State law exempts the district from having to seek approval from the Snowmass Village Town Council.


Snowmass council declines to regulate Krabloonik


Snowmass Village Town Council declined last month to enact ordinances addressing the tethering and spaying and neutering of dogs used by Krabloonik restaurant as part of its dog sled operation.


The Voices for Krabloonik Dogs, a group formed last year to push for better conditions at the Snowmass Village kennel, asked the town to pass laws allowing the dogs to spend one hour each day off their chains, and requiring most of the dogs to be spayed and neutered.


Aspen Animal Shelter Director Seth Sachson said he believes strongly the dogs “need to be off these chains, for their mental and physical well-being.”


MacEachen argued that tethers keeps the dogs secure and comfortable, facilitates hygiene and prevents them from fighting, minimizing the risk of injury.


Pitkin County —


Ryan parcel now in Forest Service hands


The U.S. Forest Service last month took title to the 35-acre Ryan parcel, a beautiful meadow between Ashcroft and the Pine Creek Cookhouse high in the Castle Creek Valley.


The formal transfer from Pitkin County to the federal government last week marks the end of what has been nearly a decade of work to protect the meadow from residential development.


The county purchased the parcel for $3.2 million in 2000 with the intention of holding it for a brief time before the Forest Service could then trade it for nearby land worth the same amount.


The deal slowly got more complicated and it took an act of Congress in 2006, and approval by county voters last fall, to get it finalized.


USFS, PitCo bicker over backcountry parcels


Helena Jones-Siddle, an attorney for the U.S. Forest Service, met with the Pitkin County commissioners last month seeking compromise on nearly 100 mining claims with cloudy titles.


At issue is a proposed settlement between the Forest Service and Rick Deane of Aspen, who claims ownership of the mining claims. Deane is offering to give up his claim to 300 acres of scattered mining claims within the White River National Forest boundary in exchange for a 2.26-acre lot carved out of public land near Midnight Mine on the backside of Aspen Mountain, and the right to build a new 500-square-foot cabin.


The county says the proposed settlement could undermine its transferable development rights policy, which is designed to limit development in the backcountry by encouraging mine claim holders and property owners to sell off their development rights, effectively extinguishing the possibility of development in remote sites.


County OK with Bass in river


Texas billionaire Ed Bass received approval to reshape the Roaring Fork River along his property above the North Star Nature Preserve.


The stretch of river was mined for gravel in the early 1960s as part of the paving of Highway 82 up Independence Pass. Loose gravel has piled up in the straight section of river as a result, and formed a sand island downstream where the river curves.


A trackhoe will be used in the river to shift rock and dirt in the channel to form point bars and pools to alter the river’s flow and potentially bring the river closer to its natural state.


The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Aspen Valley Land Trust own land downstream, and joined Bass in seeking permission for the project.


Last Hunter Creek homesite to be preserved


Bill and Jane Morhman, owners of an 8.3-acre mining claim on the ridge between the Hunter Creek and Woody Creek valleys, are under contract to sell their land to Pitkin County as open space for $900,000.


The deal includes a transferable development right to the Mohrmans, potentially worth between $200,000 and $300,000.


Open Space program director Dale Will believes it is the last buildable private parcel in the Hunter Creek Valley above the Forest Service gate.


Wildlife concerns trip up Droste plan


Pitkin County commissioners called for an independent wildlife expert to weigh in on the impact that a proposal for 10 homes above Brush Creek would have on the Burnt Mountain elk herd.


The expert they had on hand at their last meeting, DOW wildlife officer Randy Wright, said some of the proposed homes edge toward severe winter range for the animals. But he also said the plan leaves room for elk to move, especially with preservation of the Seven Star open space parcel to the west.


Peter Droste has been working with the county on conceptual plans for five years, ever since the county shot down an earlier proposal for 14 homes in the hills that separate the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys. Zoning allows for greater density than that proposed in the current proposal.


Commissioners continued the hearing to July 22, and directed staffers to see what can be done about securing an independent wildlife consultant's input.


County to raise road impact fees


Pitkin County will hike road impact fees levied as part of the building-permit process to fund road improvements.


The biggest changes will be imposed on residential development. A sliding fee schedule sets fees for homes ranging from 1,000 square feet of heated space to 5,800 square feet. On the high end, the fee would jump from $7,818 to $9,850. The fee on a 1,000-square-foot residence would increase from $3,505 to $4,350.


Basalt/Eagle County –   


Ace Lane project sparks strong debate


After more than two hours of public testimony in late June, Eagle County commissioners gave little indication of how they intend to vote on Ace Lane's Tree Farm project.


Lane is proposing 319 residential units and more than 95,000 square feet in commercial space directly across Highway 82 from Willits Town Center in El Jebel.


Proponents urged passage of the project based on its energy efficiency, pedestrian friendly layout and much-need boost for the valley's ailing construction economy.


Foes – including Basalt Town Council members Chris Seldin and Jacque Whitsitt – said it adds people and traffic in an area already struggling with growth.


The commissioners resume discussions on July 21.


Whole Foods negotiations continue


Negotiations between Willits developer Joseph Freed & Assoc. and organic grocer Whole Foods continued this month after the deadline for JF&A to provide a completed building passed.


Financing issues kept the building that was part of the original agreement with Whole Foods from being completed.


“We’re working with Whole Foods to secure them as the anchor here,” Tim Belinski, VP for Development at Joseph Freed, told ABOR. “We intend for it to work out for both sides.”


First retailer opens in second Willits building


Kitchen Collage, a gourmet cooking store with a history of success in the Vail area, opened on July 1, making it the first retailer to open in the Market Street Lofts building at Willits Town Center.


The Market Street Lofts is the second building to open at Willits Town Center. The 44 residential units above Kitchen Collage are fully occupied, according to Tim Belinski, the vice president in charge of development at Willits for Joseph Freed & Associates.


Kitchen Collage isn’t the only retailer to open for business at Willits since the recession worsened last summer. Corky Woods, a green department store, has been in business across the street in the Triangle Street Lofts building since last September.


Regional —   


Cattle Creek Colorado withdrawn


A proposal to build nearly 1,000 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial space at the confluence of Cattle Creek and the Roaring Fork River has been withdrawn.


Developer Related WestPac sent a letter to Garfield County withdrawing the application ahead of the July 22 hearing of the county Planning & Zoning commission.


The development, known as Cattle Creek Colorado, would have created a community the size of Silt on 288 acres located between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.


Skier visits down almost 8 percent


Skier visits fell 7.6 percent at the Aspen Skiing Co. last season, according to figures released in mid-June. The four mountains here had a total of 1.36 million skier visits.


Colorado Ski Country USA reported at its 22 member resorts were 6.9 percent down from last season, for 6.79 million skier visits.


Snowmass saw a drop of slightly less than 5 percent. Aspen Highlands was down approximately 6 percent. Aspen Mountain’s number fell 9 percent. And Buttermilk had a whopping 18 percent fall in visits from the previous year.


Runway cameras approved for Aspen airport


The FAA approved a closed-circuit television system at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport last month, most likely averting the need for a new and much taller control tower.


A new tower for the proposed 1,000-foot runway extension would have been up to 188 feet tall, which could have cost $20 million.


The approval of the closed-circuit camera system is cutting edge for the FAA and is a step toward what the airport industry calls “next generation” air traffic control.


The FAA still must sign off on the runway extension. Once it does, the proposal would then go through the county’s land-use review process.


Buyout would keep Frontier alive in Aspen


A buyout agreement with an Indianapolis-based regional airline operator that is pending court approval will likely keep Frontier flying in and out of Aspen.


The bankruptcy deal would make Frontier a wholly owned subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings. Frontier declared bankruptcy in April 2008.


Frontier says the $100 million-plus buyout will not affect any element of their business operations, including its Aspen service. The Republic-Frontier deal will not be finalized until at least mid-August.



Posted by rebecca on July 02, 2009 in