Aspen City Council: We'll Try Lodging Ordinance Again

Dec 2, 2014

City Council Member Ann Mullins discusses lodging ordinance options.
Credit Screenshot from GrassRoots TV/aspenpitkin.com

Small lodges could have a brighter future in Aspen. City Council decided Monday night to pursue ways to help them do small renovations and generally spruce things up. That’s part of a scaled down version of a lodging ordinance that’s moving forward. 

  The point of Monday's evening meeting was for City Council to decide whether to take another crack at measures to boost lodging in the resort. In a four hour long special meeting last night, a long list of people commented on whether tackling the issue again is a good idea. Marcia Goshorn pointed out the benefits of helping small lodges stay in business. 

“There’s still a lot of tour groups, like the Germans, Australians, and some of those that love coming to the small properties. They don’t want the big fancy hotels, they’ve never asked for that. They have money, they don’t want to spend it.”

Supporting small lodges  became a theme throughout the evening. Debbie Braun is President and CEO Of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

“Our pipeline’s pretty full right now, if you look at Base 1, Base 2, Hotel Jerome, Sky, that’s pretty impressive that that pipeline is where it’s at, but not one of those is our small mom and pop lodges that really need some attention.”

Of the fourteen people who made comments, most spoke in favor of making some kind of changes. Some in the audience did question whether other modifications could accidentally cause problems. For example, another option on the table is making it more attractive for condo owners to start renting for overnight or week long visitors. Phyllis Bronson asked about the effect it could have on one part of the community.

“People who actually live here, not in affordable housing, but in quite high end rentals, and intend to live that way for a while. And so you talk about incentivising everything. What happens to long time citizens who live in rentals and don’t want to see that happen.”

City Council passed a far more comprehensive and ambitious ordinance in August, but it was dropped almost immediately after public outcry and a proposed referendum. Several in the audience last night, including former Mayor BIll Stirling, urged the council to make sure that strong reaction doesn’t cause officials to abandon the idea of improving lodging. Stirling and others described diminishing beds as something that could cause problems down the road.

In proposing the newer, milder forms of lodging incentives, Aspen’s city planners last night cited recent extensive public surveys. They pointed to strong support for lodging changes, also using that data to narrow down exactly which modifications would be accepted by locals. Council member Adam Frisch.   

Aspen City Council Member Adam Frisch.
Credit Screenshot from GrassRoots TV/aspenpitkin.com

“At one point, I was supportive of something big to tackle, but I’m not sure if just focus, not focus, on the current lodge upgrades.”

The council was unanimous in wanting to move forward with that. Also included are possible flexibility on affordable housing requirements. But, unlike the last attempt, council members decided to leave building height alone-- a controversial element during the last attempt. 

“This is a very complex-- although it’s more moderate than before, it’s still quite complex,” said Mayor Steve Skadron.  

“And it’s important that Council, I believe, we sit in the drivers seat. And we take our time in making appropriate decisions here.”

City Council will take up the matter again next week.