A rundown of the government and business activity over the last month, with particular focus on issues and items that are important to the Real Estate community.
Inside this month’s Observer …
Aspen— Hotel Aspen proposes smaller rooms, new free market condominiums
Snowmass Village – Aspen Skiing Co. presses for hotel approval
Basalt – Willits seeks $1 million in taxpayer subsidies, other concessions
Pitkin County – County adopts new greenhouse rules
Hotel Aspen redevelopment cuts room sizes, seeks free market condos on Bleeker
Hotel Aspen, a mid-priced lodge on Main and Garmish, is proposing a redevelopment plan to build condominiums on Bleeker Street, increase the number of hotel rooms from 45 to 54 and reduce room sizes to about 300 square feet.
Regulations are designed to incentivize small lodge redevelopment by allowing free-market condos.
Hotel Aspen, located at Main and Garmisch streets, is proposing 11,000 square feet of free-market condos, at the back of the lot along Bleeker Street, about five percent more than allowed under the code.
The free-market portion of the project has drawn criticism from the city’s planning office, the Planning and Zoning Commission and some neighbors for not fitting in with the context of the otherwise residential neighborhood. A public hearing is set for Jan. 13.
Proposed market-gap affordable housing fee would sharply raise development burden
Staff from the city planning department and the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority say developers are not paying enough in affordable housing fees, because the current fee structure, which requires payment of approximately $240,000 per employee generated, does not realistically reflect the price of housing.
On January 6, staff will present City Council with various versions of the market-gap method for setting affordable housing mitigation fees. The market gap method addresses staff concerns by basing fees on the difference between what a working family can afford and free-market housing prices.
If market-gap methodology were applied to projects currently underway, it would more than triple the fees owed by developers. Staff has developed less severe alternatives for City Council to consider, however.
It is the second attempt since 2012 by staff to significantly alter the way housing fees are set, and significantly raise the cost for developers. The first attempt was rejected by council for being too costly.
Jerome Professional Building demolished
The Jerome Professional Building on Mill Street was demolished last month. The roughly 7,500-square-foot building, built in the 1970s, is being replaced with a three-story, 40,000-square-foot mixed-use structure with 10,000 square feet of commercial space, four free market residential condos and four affordable housing units.
All of the units will have three-bedrooms. The free-market condos will be 2,000 square feet each and the affordable units 1,350 square feet.
Bleeker Mill Development LLC, the New York City-based ownership group, is developing the new building. Managing partner, Michael Rudin, developed the Spring Building at the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Spring Street in Aspen, another mixed-use structure.
Lodge owner says major incentives needed to stay in business
MarMax HayTel LLC, an investment group that includes hoteliers Michael and Aaron Brown, continues to operate the 26-room Mountain House Bed and Breakfast as one of a handful of small lodges with rooms in the $200-a-night range at peak season. The owners, who recently purchased the property, say residential development on the site is a possibility unless the city comes through with incentives to keep Mountain House as a lodge. City Council has identified preservation and renovation of small lodges as a major policy goal, and has directed staff to develop incentives for lodge owners.
Building activity sharply up in Aspen
The value of building permits issued in Aspen rose 27 percent last year, according to a year-end report issued by the building department.
The report, which is issued annually and analyzes activity from Jan. 1 - Dec.16, shows the building department issued permits worth $203.5 million in 2013, up from $148 million in 2012. There were 247 more permits issued in 2013, as well. Residential building permits declined this year, but commercial permitting increased.
Developer seeks to create Aspen housing credits at ABC
Developer Peter Fornell is seeking permission to build affordable-housing outside Aspen, and then sell the credits to free-market developments inside city limits. Fornell is proposing to develop eight three-bedroom units at the Aspen Business Center, establishing affordable-housing credits for 24 full-time-equivalent employees at the Category 2 level. The site would serve as phase two of the partially completed, 17-unit Alpine Grove subdivision.
Burlingame homeowners to sue over faulty siding
Burlingame Ranch Phase I Condominium Association is ready to take a construction defect lawsuit to trial after an attempt at mediation failed. The suit alleges that siding and trim on the 84-unit project were improperly manufactured and installed. Homeowners fear that faulty materials and installation of the siding could result in long-term problems to their condos. It names defendants Shaw Construction, Certainteed Corp., the city of Aspen, and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.
Carbondale firm given probation for jeopardizing water supply
A Carbondale construction company that tapped into the city of Aspen’s water supply without permission received an 18-month suspended sentence in municipal court. Savage Excavation’s unauthorized installation of a fire hydrant, which involved cutting into a city water pipe, put the drinking water system in jeopardy of contamination, the court found. If it commits another violation in town, the firm will be fined $2,650.
AVH seeks new surgeon in Denver
Aspen Valley Hospital and Denver-based Surgical Specialists of Colorado are discussing a partnership to bring a second surgeon to Aspen. Dr. Bill Rodman, who has served as the community’s primary surgeon for nearly two decades, is currently the only surgeon in town. A second is needed to ensure availability at all times.
Wheeler adds leg room, new seats to balcony
The latest renovation at the Wheeler Opera House focused on the balcony and its legendarily cramped seating. The balcony now features three rows of premium seats and a digital cinema projection system. Because the new projection booth is smaller than the old one, there was no loss in the number of seats. The project cost came in between $2.3 million and $2.5 million.
Hotel Jerome leads retail sales up 12 percent in Aspen
Retail sales in Aspen were up 12 percent in October, due in part to a 55 percent increase in accommodations sales. The Hotel Jerome, which was closed in fall 2012 for a remodel, accounted for much of the increase. Automobile and restaurant and bar sectors posted significant gains as well, up 63 and 11 percent. Through ten months of 2013, taxable retail sales are up 6 percent from 2012.
WE-Cycle program used more than 10,000 times in inaugural season
Aspen’s WE-Cycle bike-rental program counted more than 10,000 rides from June through November, with 51 percent of those trips coming from local season-pass holders. The primary purpose proved to be transit rather than recreational use, with 91 percent of the rides lasting less than 30 minutes.
Aspen and Denver Komen Foundations to merge
The Aspen and Denver affiliates of the Susan G. Komen foundation announced plans to merge. The combined agency, which focuses on breast cancer education and research, will be called Susan G. Komen Colorado, with offices in Denver and Aspen. Komen Colorado will continue funding breast-cancer research through the Komen Award and Research Grant Program.
City reaches 2020 greenhouse gas goals six years early
The city of Aspen has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent since 2004, meeting its 2020 goal six years ahead of schedule. Aspen’s municipal electric utility was able to influence the numbers by purchasing wind power from a Nebraska. The city has also installed solar panels and a heat exchanger at its water treatment plant.
Little Nell rated among Colorado’s and globe’s best hotels
The Little Nell was among nine Colorado hotels to make Travel+ Leisure readers’ list of the world’s top 500 hotels. Others included the Sebastian at Vail and the Ritz-Carlton at Bachelor Gulch, in Avon.
Doerr-Hosier Center garners honors at Grand Prix of Real Estate
The Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows was recognized at the International Real Estate Federation — U.S. Chapter’s (FIABCI-USA) Grand Prix of Real Estate, held in San Francisco. Jeffrey Berkus Architects-designed the award-winning building.
Exclusivity promised at newest Aspen nightclub
Bootsy Bellows, known for the A-list crowd that frequents its West Hollywood location, is striving to fill a niche in Aspen that its backers say doesn’t currently exist here — something between the Caribou Club and everything else. The local version of the club, on Hopkins, will maintain exclusivity by requiring reservations and inclusion on a guest list for access on certain nights.
Snowmass Village —
Aspen Skiing Co. presses town council for Base Village hotel approval
Review of the Aspen Skiing Company’s proposal for a 102-unit hotel at Base Village may take longer than hoped. In October, Town Council agreed to a shortened review process for a hotel similar to the mid-priced Limelight Hotel in Aspen. The 104,000 square-foot hotel would be located on Base Village Lot 2, next to the Elk Camp Gondola, where there is an existing approval for 57 condos. The hotel proposal includes 22 condominiums, a private club area as well as retail and restaurant space.
Town Council expressed reluctance about the expedited review, however, in light of news from Related Colorado that it will not submit an overall development plan for the remainder of the Base Village anytime soon. Town Council members said they agreed to the expedited review with the understanding that such a plan would be submitted by the end of 2013.
Skico has said the hotel will not be built unless it can begin construction this coming summer.
Anderson Ranch decision affects Base Village planning
Related Colorado said Anderson Ranch Art Center’s decision to withdraw from a proposed expansion into Base Village was one reason the developer needs to delay submission of an overall development plan for the project.
Town officials expressed frustration with the delay, because Related officials indicated they would have a plan ready by the end of 2013. CEO Dwayne Romero said the company is instead working on pieces of the Base Village puzzle with Skico and phase two of Viceroy Snowmass. It is also reaching out to community groups for input before submitting a plan with major amendments to the existing approvals.
Related Colorado is asking Town Council for a two-year extension of vesting rights for the Base Village approval, until November 2016. It also wants the town to relax the deadline for completion of a roundabout at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Wood Road. After the roundabout is finished, the developer wants vesting for the overall project extended to November 2019.
Condo sales up sharply in Snowmass Village
Condominium sales around Snowmass Village and at Viceroy Snowmass played an important role in buoying Snowmass Village’s real estate market in 2013. Through the end of November, 118 condominiums had sold in the town, including 56 Viceroy units. By contrast, only 48 units sold in 2012.
Andrew Ernemann, a broker with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty, pointed out that even without counting Viceroy Snowmass, condominium sales are up for the year. He said a hotel proposal by the Aspen Skiing Co., and Related Colorado’s continued work on plans for Base Village are increasing buyer confidence.
Mountain Ambassador program reworked to put focus on guests
Aspen Skiing Co.’s ambassador program has fewer volunteers this season — down to about 100, from 140 last season. But it has been reworked to provide more face time with guests. Ambassadors are no longer required to dole out cookies and cider or conduct guest surveys. Company executives took a look at the program and realized that work unrelated to its original intent was becoming too much.
Krabloonik owner charged with animal cruelty
Misdemeanor animal cruelty charges were filed against Dan MacEachen, owner of the Krabloonik dog-sledding operation and restaurant in Snowmass Village. MacEachen, who has been the subject of scrutiny over his treatment of dogs in the past, was charged after an investigation by the DA’s office. MacEachen strenuously denies the accusations.
Snowmass Village close to naming new town manager
Finalists for Snowmass Village town manager position are Clinton Kinney, city manager of Fruita; Michael Mallinoff, city manager of Annapolis, Md.; and Gary Suiter, Snowmass Village town manager from 1990-2001, who is currently serving as the interim town manager. A decision is expected this month.
Anderson Ranch offers several kids’ art classes in Base Village
Anderson Ranch Arts Center is offering art classes for children at Snowmass Base Village, Wednesdays through Fridays until March 28. There are two sessions daily, taught by professional art teachers to as many as six participants. For a complete schedule visit www.andersonranch.org or call 970-923-3181.
Willits developer seeks public subsidies, plan amendments
Willits Mariner Real Estate Management Inc., developer of Willits Town Center, is seeking major amendments to the project’s approvals, and $1 million dollars in direct public subsidies and fee waivers.
Before committing to build a hotel on site, the developer wants Town Council agree to an annual subsidy of $75,000 for 10 years and waive an additional $250,000 in development fees.
Other requests from Willits Mariner include:
• Reduced parking requirements for the hotel, from one space to 0.8 spaces per room;
• Control of a publicly-owned parcel next to the hotel site that’s planned for public parking. In exchange, the developer would commit 20 spaces in the garage under Whole Foods for public use;
• An increase in the number of free-market residences in three yet-to-be-built buildings;
• Additional signage along Highway 82 to highlight commercial tenants.
Court sides with Roaring Fork Club in property tax dispute
The Colorado Court of Appeals sided with Roaring Fork Club in its property-value dispute with the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. The court remanded the matter to the state Board of Assessment Appeals to come up with an new valuation.
The club’s owners maintained the property, located in Basalt, was worth around $7 million in 2011, considerably less than the $19 million value assigned by the county. The owners convinced the court that the county erred when it factored in the value of memberships in the club’s value.
The ruling says memberships are not part of the assessed value for a number of reasons, including:
• They aren’t life estates;
• A membership agreement is a revocable license, not a lease;
• Membership does not give members a taxable interest in the property.
Pan and Fork residents demand replacement housing
Residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park have been joined by other Basalt residents in opposition to buyout offers the town has been using to entice residents to move out. In late December, more than 100 signed an online petition to “keep Pan and Fork residents in the community.” The town’s buyout offers of $15,000 and $22,000 have enticed many families to move out, but 10 of them formed a group to demand replacement housing in town. Basalt Town Council directed staff to explore that option.
Bear wakes up from hibernation, wanders streets of Basalt
A young bear was wandering the streets of Basalt during the coldest stretch in December — long after his brethren had gone to sleep. He was likely disrupted from hibernation and then found enough food in town to stay awake. Wildlife officials urged residents not to feed the bears, and to secure garbage and other feeding opportunities such as bird feeders.
Pitkin County —
County adopts new rules for greenhouses
Pitkin County commissioners approved land-use regulations for home and agricultural greenhouses
The code amendments cover two types of the structures: those that exceed 3,000 square feet, and smaller ones that are an accessory to a home.
Homeowners who have maxed out the allowed floor-area ratio for their property and want to build a greenhouse under 3,000 square feet would be allowed to do so without having to enter the growth management process or acquire transferable development rights, as long as the structures fit in with the rural character and are out of view from roads and trails.
A greenhouse over 3,000 square feet will still trigger a special review by the county in which the structure’s size and scale, vehicle trips, parking and other factors will be weighed. Neighborhood character will also be considered.
The commissioners eliminated employee-mitigation requirements for all greenhouses, and did away with the distinction between home and commercial greenhouses. The new rules do not directly address marijuana cultivation.
Commissioners delay marijuana greenhouse decision
Ron Radtke will wait until February to learn whether the county will approve his proposal for a 19,000 square-foot marijuana production facility on 38 acres in Snowmass Canyon. The proposal prompted opposition from neighbors. The decision was delayed to allow more public comment.
Tipton declines to support Thompson Divide protection
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton declined to support the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, despite strong support locally. The legislation drafted by Sen. Michael Bennet would ban future gas leasing in the Thompson Divide, a 221,500-acre swath of federal land that crosses five counties between McClure Pass and Sunlight ski area. It would also give current leaseholders a legal mechanism to accept a buyout for their mineral rights.
Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC), a group comprised of citizens and agricultural and recreation interests, has offered more than $2 million to several companies with active leases for energy development, but current law does not allow payment to extinguish a lease on Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management lands.
Buttermilk tops TransWorld Snowboarding reader’s poll
Buttermilk was honored by readers in Transworld Snowboarding magazine’s 2014 resort poll. The host mountain for Winter X Games was recognized by Transworld readership as home to North America’s best terrain park and superpipe. Aspen/Snowmass was named by readers as the best overall resort, ahead of Mammoth, Whistler/Blackcomb, Sierra-at-Tahoe, and Copper Mountain. Freeskier magazine ranked Aspen/Snowmass as the second best resort in the United States.
Roxy’s Market set to open restaurant next door
Roxy’s Market in the Aspen Business Center obtained a liquor license that will enable it to open a new cafe in an adjacent space.
Michael and Roxanne Lawler plan on expanding their kitchen in the grocery store and opening a café in the now vacant restaurant space previously occupied by the Blue Sky Cafe. The chef will have access to more than 7,500 items in the grocery store with which to forge the menu.
Community School to begin construction on new campus in spring
Construction of a new main school building on the Woody Creek campus of the Aspen Community School will begin next spring and continue through the end of 2014. Conceptually, the new building is a lot like the old one, with a series of learning areas linked to a central common area. The historic school building, built in 1970, will be remodeled to become the charter school’s fine arts center.
County finalizes Redstone open space purchase
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails finalized the purchase of 21 acres in Redstone, including a mile of riverfront along the Crystal River. The property, which cost $140,000, includes a popular beach, just upstream from the north Redstone bridge and runs to the confluence of Coal Creek and the Crystal, closer to the village center. The sellers were the Louis Meade Harker Family Trust, the William Robert Delaney Trust and John A. Reeves.
RFTA buses to have priority at signaled intersections
The Colorado Department of Transportation is testing a traffic signal system that is designed to move buses through intersections more rapidly than cars and trucks. The traffic signal priority system, which is being tested at four midvalley intersections, turns lights green in bus and HOV lanes ahead of regular traffic.
It is a key part of RFTA’s $46 million upgrade of the valley’s public transportation system.
Woody Creeker to be inducted in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Woody Creek resident John Oates will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with longtime collaborator Daryl Hall on April 10 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They will be inducted with Nirvana, Kiss, Linda Ronstadt, Peter Gabriel, the E Street Band and Cat Stevens. Hall and Oates are working on a new single.