December 2012

Aspen Sale November 19, 2012

Aspen Sale November 19, 2012

Tbd Bullwinkle Place

Mclain Flats, Aspen

$1,850,000

Building Site

Asking price $2,095,000

88% of asking price

Photo by: Gary Feldman 

Posted by gary on December 11, 2012 in
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Woody Creek Sale November 29, 2012

Woody Creek Sale November 29, 2012

179 Liberty Lane

Woody Creek

$2,900,000

Six bedrooms/five baths

$503 per square foot

Asking price $3,700,000

78% of asking price

Photo by: Gary Feldman 

Posted by gary on December 05, 2012 in
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Aspen Board of Realtors Observer - December, 2012

Aspen Board of Realtors Observer - December, 2012

Aspen —

Developer scraps plans for hotel at Lift 1A

Bald Mountain Development announced it is scrapping plans for a 76-room hotel at the base of Lift 1A, saying it could not find financing for the project, and expressing doubts that it would be able to find a hotel operator. 

In October, council reviewed plans for an 84,000-square-foot hotel coupled with a plan for 86,000 square feet of free-market condominiums. As more detail was put into those plans, it became clear to the developer that the proposal was not feasible, the developer said.

A doable project would require six stories of condominiums and five stories of hotel rooms, which is not likely to be approved by City Council.


Council to scrutinize approvals for three story buildings

City Council has “called up” the approvals of two advisory boards relating to three-story buildings in the center Aspen. One is the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval of the project at 422 E. Cooper Ave., the Red Onion annex building. The other is the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of a renovation and expansion of 616 E. Hyman Ave.

The Red Onion annex raised concern because it would place a three-story building inside the Wheeler Opera House’s protected view plane. The 616 E. Hyman building was called up over design concerns, particularly its use of large amounts of glass.

City rules allow the Red Onion annex to be given an exemption from the view plane, because taller buildings are located between it and the Wheeler. However, councilman Steve Skadron likened that suggestion to saying that because a river is already polluted, it’s OK to pollute it more.

The call-up process attempts to strike a balance between delegating authority over design elements to the review boards and the council’s obligation to oversee development.

Council considers sharp limits for downtown height exemptions

Aspen City Council is considering land-use policies for downtown that will bar future construction of free-market residential units. Under the direction the majority on Council appear to be taking, the only exceptions to the 28-foot height limit will be for lodging and other commercial uses.

The city also plans to eliminate a prohibition on first-floor office space on the north side of Main Street, where many currently exist. A public hearing is planned for Dec. 10. 

Fight for retail space winds up in court

Entrepreneur and retailer Larry Sands plans to open a new boutique, Silver Threads Aspen, are on hold while he and the Optical Shop of Aspen settle a dispute over retail space in the Ute City Building. 

Sands signed a lease for the Galena Street storefront and expected to begin moving in on November 1. But the space remains occupied by Optical Shop of Aspen, which has refused to vacate until the matter is settled in court.

The landlord at the center of the dispute, Aspen Arcade Limited LLP, argues the Optical Shop did not meet the terms of the renewal clause in its now-expired lease, and should be evicted from the building.

Hydro bill still due, despite voters’ wishes

The city of Aspen is saddled with payments between $350,000 and $360,000 for the next 23 years to service bonds for the now-in-question hydro electric plant on Castle Creek. Voters gave the city bonding authority to develop hydro in 2007. 

They city had planned to start paying the bonds back directly with revenue generated by the hydro plant. That may not be possible now that voters called for a halt to the project. Council will discuss next steps next month.


Hotel Aspen seeks expansion of hotel and new condos

Hotel Aspen on Main Street could add eight rooms and four free-market condos if its redevelopment proposal is approved. Plans call for a third story on both of the hotel’s buildings. The main section on Main Street would be remodeled, while the back building would be rebuilt and include an underground parking garage. The number of rooms will increase from 45 to 53.

Gap closure to make way for redevelopment

Clothing retailer The Gap will close in February to allow for redevelopment at the corner of Galena Street and Hopkins Avenue.

Real estate investor Mark Hunt purchased the building and adjacent parking lot accessed off Hopkins Ave., and announced plans for an addition and second story. Several national retailers have reportedly expressed interest in renting space in the new building. Current plans envision smaller spaces than the one occupied by the Gap.

A Gap spokesperson said there are no immediate plans to open a store elsewhere in the Aspen area, but is working with a local broker for a new space.


City drops RETT case against Hotel Jerome ownership group

The city of Aspen recently withdrew from a legal case seeking to force owners of the Hotel Jerome to pay real estate transfer taxes for its most recent “sale,” ending a two year legal battle.

The case was dismissed from the state appeals court on Oct. 16 after the city and the hotel owners reached an agreement where each side pays its own legal costs. The deal frees hotel’s owners from $375,000 in transfer taxes. 

The case wound up in appeals court after Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols ruled the city had interpreted its code too narrowly when it denied a RETT exemption the hotel ownership applied for in 2009. The basis for the exemption was the fact that ownership changed through a “deed in lieu of foreclosure” transaction.

In this case, the current owners acquired a purchase loan that had been made to the former owners, Chicago-based investment group LCP-Elysian. Jerome Property then foreclosed on LCP and reached a deal where the debt was forgiven in exchange for title to the Hotel Jerome.

City Attorney Jim True said the law has been changed to address RETT collections and deed in lieu of foreclosure transactions. Now, if the holder takes title to the property in order to satisfy amounts owed under the note they must resell the property within two years to be considered exempt from the RETT.


Aspen Valley Hospital submits final designs for approval

Aspen Valley Hospital representatives presented final design plans to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission that contain additional square footage, more parking spaces, and fewer affordable housing units. The additional space is necessary for mechanical units and a garage for ambulances. Parking is proposed to increase from 339 spaces to 356. The new affordable housing plan cuts the number of units from 22 to 18. 

Summer of 2012 strongest for years

Summer ended strongly for lodge owners in Aspen and Snowmass. Aspen had 53 percent occupancy from May through October, the best in at least seven years, according to Bill Tomcich of Stay Aspen Snowmass. The average rates rose from $240 per night last year to $257 per night in 2012.

Occupancy in Snowmass was down 14 percent over the summer, but that was actually an improvement because nearly a quarter of the resort’s rooms were closed for rennovation. Per night rates improved from $108 to $123.


City considering temporary “parklets”

City Council is considering converting a few downtown parking spaces at a time into “parklets,” small open spaces that enhance streetscapes and improve the experience for pedestrians and cyclists. They have been successfully implemented in a number of cities around the country. Most parklets are the size of two parking spaces, or about 320 square feet, according to a memo from city staff.

Council reconsiders open space plan next to art museum

In response to protests from local businesses, City Council may reverse plans to convert on-street parking near the Art Museum into a landscaped open space. A number of business owners say the plan will negatively impact their bottom lines. Council approved the conversion when they approved the art museum in 2010.

ACRA contests plan for elected officials to control lodging tax funds

ACRA representatives presented a $1.77 million budget for 2013 to City Council that accounts for all of the projected revenue next year from the lodging tax. If the economy continues to improve, however, there could be a surplus next year. The question that came up at a recent council meeting is what to do with that money.

The mayor and city staff argued for extra revenues to go into a city-controlled fund. That would create a transparent process for handling the money and giving council the opportunity to fund unanticipated marketing ideas if they arise. ACRA President and CEO Debbie Braun said surplus collections should go to ACRA, has it has in the past. Council made no decision.

Dog ban may be lifted at Burlingame

City officials want to allow dogs at the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing, in order to attract more buyers to the project’s next phase. A pre-annexation deal with neighbors that bans dogs at Burlingame will have to be renegotiated. Lack of pet-friendly units has long been cited by people as a reason not to rent or buy affordable housing, and it appears to be a hurdle in attracting buyers to the next phase of Burlingame.

Tax fairness at heart of city cuts to health and human services

Aspen City Council’s plans to cut $90,000 in grants to health and human services drew sharp criticism from executive directors of local agencies and nonprofits. The $390,000 from the city’s general fund that went to such organizations in 2012 will drop to $300,000 in 2013. Eventually the city plans to eliminate such funding altogether. 

City Manager Steve Barwick pointed out that the council has been talking about the reductions for several years, because the city’s annual contributions are made in addition to the Healthy Community Fund, which is supported by a county-wide property tax. As a result, city residents pay about $137 per capita in taxes to fund health and human services, while county residents pay about $92.

Methane capture project by Skico a pioneering effort

Aspen Skiing Co.’s $5.5 million investment in a power plant at the Elk Creek Coal Mine near Paonia is just the second such project west of the Mississippi to generate electricity from harmful methane gas generated by underground coal mining.

The power plant works by capturing methane from the mine’s ventilation system and piping it to a conversion facility, where it is refined and sent to one of three 1-megawatt generators. The plant is expected to generate enough electricity each year to offset approximately 90 percent of the power that the Skico uses for all of its operations.

The project is a collaboration between Aspen Skiing Co., Holy Cross Energy, Denver-based Vesells Coal Gas, which developed the technology, Gunnison Energy and Oxbow Mining LLC.

Library tax fails by wide margin

The two ballot measures seeking to expand the Pitkin County Library and its operations failed, garnering less than 40 percent of the vote. The proposal was to expand the existing 32,000-square-foot library by roughly 7,000 square feet into the Galena Plaza.

Father of growth management, two others to be inducted in Aspen Hall of Fame

Joe Edwards, widely considered to be the father of growth management in Pitkin County, will be inducted to the Aspen Hall of Fame, along with Michael Kinsley and Pat Fallin, in a ceremony at the Hotel Jerome on Jan. 19, 2013.

Edwards, a county commissioner in the early- and mid-1970s, teamed up with commissioner Dwight Shellman to downzone the entire county and then implement new rules governing development.

Aspen/Snowmass Business Confidence Index highest in three years

The Aspen/Snowmass Business Confidence Index, which surveys local businesspeople about their outlook on the economy, measured 69.3 based on results from early November. A reading above 50.0 indicates a positive outlook.

It is the highest rating since B.J. Adams and Co. began conducting the survey in 2009, with more than 75 percent of respondents saying they expect their businesses to be stronger one year from now. Opinions about the national and global economy were significantly less optimistic.

Snowmass —

Base Village drives real estate’s strongest month of year

September was the strongest month of 2012 in real estate transactions in Pitkin County, both in dollar volume and number of sales, according to the latest report from Land Title Guarantee Company. The total includes the $90 million sale of Base Village. The $232.4 million is close to sales levels in September 2006, during the peak of the boom. 

The third quarter of 2012 has been strong, up 25 percent in dollar terms and 13 percent in unit sales when compared with the same period last year. That is a shift from the trends of the past few years, which have started out strongly but sputtered to a close.


Sales taxes revenues strong in Snowmass Village

Sales tax collections in Snowmass Village have risen every month but one in 2012, with the summer approaching levels not seen since before the recession. Overall, year-to-date collections in 2012 are up 6.3 percent over 2011. The increases are even remarkable in light of the fact that the 258-room Westin Hotel and the 157-room Wildwood Hotel were closed from early spring through late fall for remodeling. Together, those two properties comprise nearly a fifth of Snowmass Village’s hotel bed base.

Snowmass voters against ban on plastic bags

Fifty-three percent of voters in Snowmass Village came out against a ban or fee on the use of plastic bags. The advisory vote was a way for  Snowmass Town Council to gauge the community’s feelings. No further action on the matter is expected.

Snowmass fire district tax passes

Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District voters passed a property tax increase of 3 mills to be phased in over the next two years.  The tax will add property taxes of $11.84 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Environmental board member wins seat on Snowmass Town Council

Chris Jacobson, a member of the Snowmass Village Environmental Adivory Board won a seat on Town Council by just 14 votes. Mayor Bill Boineau and Councilwoman Markey Butler easily gained re-election.

Sotheby’s wins Viceroy contract

Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s has been awarded a contract to sell units at the Viceroy Snowmass, the 152-unit condominium hotel at Snowmass Base Village. The firm will operate an office in Base Village to sell the Viceroy condos along with other listings. 

Basalt —                   

RFTA moves to bar consultant from valuation trial over seized land

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is trying to block a consultant from testifying in the upcoming trial to determine the value of a half acre it seized through eminent domain. 

RFTA and the Cathers family, which owned the Basalt parcel that is now being converted into a park and ride facility, are more than $600,000 apart. RFTA’s appraiser values the land at $585,000, while a consultant hired by the family estimates it at more than $1.2 million.

At issue is whether the family should be compensated for the value of the land had it been developed. In 2009, Paul Cathers, hired architects and engineers to design and construct a mixed-use project to complement his family’s holdings, which their consultant, E. Peter Elzi, Jr. factored into his valuation.

RFTA maintains that Elzi should not testify because he “did not make the calculations as required by Colorado law.” Elzi estimated the value of the property as if a contemplated development is an accomplished fact, which RFTA says is in direct contravention of Colorado eminent domain law.

No ruling has been issued on Elzi’s eligibility to testify.

Catholic Charities exploring affordable housing at Willits

Catholic Charities is pursuing the possibility of building affordable, deed-restricted housing at Willits Town Center. It would be part of a mixed-use building on Willits block no. 4. If approved, the project would take care of the replacement housing needed to allow redevelopment of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park.

This is the fourth project Archdiocesan Housing has explored in the Basalt area since the early 2000s. Fritz and Fabi Benedict provided a financial gift to the nonprofit to build a project in the Roaring Fork Valley. Prior projects didn't advance because of land-use issues.


County looks to purchase second Elk Run unit

Pitkin County plans to purchase a second Basalt townhouse for employee housing and make it available as rental housing at the Category 1 level, which serves the lowest income workers in the county. The maximum monthly rent for a three-bedroom Category 1 unit is $802.

County Manager Jon Peacock said the plan won’t require undue subsidies and will add a unit of Category 1 housing, which is in high demand. The county is planning to purchase several more units with its housing funds.

Sales taxes up sharply thanks to Whole Foods

Sales tax revenues in Basalt rose nearly 17 percent in September, to $345,782, compared with the same month last year, thanks mostly to Whole Foods’ first full month of operations. Revenues in the retail food category, which includes all grocery stores, jumped 37 percent for the month.

Basalt to tap reserves for affordable housing

Basalt will dip into its general-fund reserves next year to help with replacement housing for the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. The nonprofit and for-profit developers of a proposed project on that property also will contribute funds needed to offset the loss of 38 mobile homes on the property.

Voters OK property tax increase in Basalt fire district

Voters in the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District approved a property tax hike to partially offset the loss of revenues because of the recession. The vote raises the tax rate from 4.95 mills to 8 mills, increasing taxes from $39.40 to $63.88 per $100,000 of home value per year.

Pitkin County —

Housing board to assert legislative authority despite concerns of elected officials

The appointed board that oversees the affordable housing program intends to reassert its authority to adjust policy and address issues residents face in their units.

An outside attorney hired by the housing board to examine the intergovernmental agreement that governs the program found that the housing board has the authority it needs to set policies, budgeting and planning.

The current defacto process has turned the housing board into an advisory board to Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners. As a result, even small changes to policy can take anywhere from a few months to years to enact.

Elected officials from Aspen and Pitkin County have expressed disagreement with the idea of more authority being granted to the housing board.

Airport master plan advances, setting stage for redevelopment

The master plan Aspen-Pitkin County Airport won initial approval from county commissioners on a 4-1 vote. A public hearing and possible final approval is set for December 5.

The master plan sets the stage for eventual construction of a 1,300 car underground parking garage, an 80,000 square foot terminal and a second fixed-base operator to serve private aircraft.

The lone dissenter, Jack Hatfield urged his colleagues to require affordable housing as part of airport development, saying the county and the airport should be held to the same standards as the private sector.

Court affirms county plan for parking on Woody Creek Road

District Judge James Boyd denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to bar parking on Woody Creek Road by snowmobilers and others seeking access to a nearby recreational area in the forest.

In his decision, Boyd acknowledged a number of complaints by the plaintiffs, including insufficient space to accommodate users, and drinking and urinating along the road. But the judge ruled that the county had the authority to implement the parking plan, and that an injunction would do little to stop people from parking there. 


Officials take the Fifth, refuse testimony in carbon monoxide case

Two former public building officials who were once charged with manslaughter in connection with the carbon monoxide poisoning deaths of a Denver family at a home up Independence Pass, exercised their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a deposition in a civil action by the family’s relatives. 

Brian Pawl, the county’s onetime chief building official, and Erik Peltonen, a former city building inspector, declined to answer many of the questions from the family’s lawyers, citing a fear that their testimony may lead to prosecution in the future. 


Both at one point faced felony and misdemeanor charges, and were initially named as defendants in the civil suit they were being deposed for. They were eventually excused from the civil suit and the chargers were dropped. The family’s civil suit continues against 10 entities, including the mansion’s then-owner and various contractors who worked on the home, for alleged roles in the family’s deaths.

County eliminates first responder preference for housing

Pitkin County Commissioners are revising a longstanding policy that gives priority to public safety first responders for county-owned affordable housing units. Commissioner Rob Ittner argued the county needs to create a policy that is more equitable. The city of Aspen and the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority still give first responders top priority  for rentals and purchase opportunities.

Improvements set for Redstone park

Upgrades planned for Elk Park in Redstone include more open areas, a new parking lot and a redesign of an open-air visitor center called the Depot. The idea is to create continuous open space from Redstone Boulevard to the historic coke ovens, enhancing the entrance to Redstone in a way that that draws more tourists.

Landing fees rise at Sardy Field

Pitkin County last month approved 5 percent increase in landing fees at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. The fees are levied on commercial carriers and private aircraft that aren't based locally. A proposed 2.5 percent increase in terminal rental fees also won support of the County Commissioners. 

Airlines set to begin high season service

United Airlines begins full winter flying schedule on Dec. 19, and American Airlines begins service on Dec. 13.

Posted by gary on December 04, 2012 in
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