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 – Aspen Street hotel proposal under review

               Basalt – Willits lofts may be freed of deed restrictions

               Snowmass Village — Related Cos. acquire Base Village for $90 million

               Pitkin County – Study calls for 100s of new affordable housing units

               Downvalley — Transfer station still in play near Carbondale

Aspen —

Aspen Street hotel proposal in front of P&Z

ASV Aspen Street Owner, the Boston-based investment group that owns the 2.4-acres on South Aspen Street below Lift 1A, has applied to build a 76-room hotel and 35 condominiums in three buildings.

The developer is proposing 169,975 square feet above-grade, about 36,000 square feet more than a proposal City Council rejected in 2009. The hotel rooms would average 550 square feet, while the condos would average around 2,400 square feet.

Heights would reach 60 feet, above the 40-foot maximum allowed in that zone district with special approval. The developer is also seeking exemptions from affordable housing requirements, with a plan that includes dorm-style and one-bedroom units on-site, and three-bedroom units at the Aspen Business Center. The plan to house 43 employees covers just under half the number required for a project this size.

If the hotel is not approved, the developers are vested for 14 free market townhomes or condominiums.

 Housing summit: Government not a bank, and elderly not a threat

Officials from Aspen, Pitkin County and the Housing Authority met last month to talk about big issues affecting the affordable housing program, including capital funding and how to deal with non-working retirees who live in housing.

With capital funding, the consensus was that affordable housing is a community resource that needs to be protected from deterioration, but structural repairs and infrastructure upkeep is primarily the responsibility of homeowners. One idea aimed at helping homeowners save for big ticket repairs and upkeep was a program where incentives are made available for HOAs that follow capital reserve plans prescribed by the housing authority. Staff was directed to explore the idea further, and report back.

Officials agreed that the impending retirement of Baby Boomers should not be treated as a threat to the housing supply. They also decided not to offer the elderly incentives to leave their affordable housing units when they retire, because it would send the wrong message to the community.

On Oct. 11, officials will reconvene to discuss governance and the program’s relationship with social service providers.

 City takes on 10 separate parks projects

Aspen City Council approved a $5.2 million bond issue to finance park projects around town. The bonding authority was approved by voters more than a decade ago.

–        Grading and replanting Wagner Park;

–        Landscaping Galena Plaza;

–        Funding the Sky Mountain Park/Droste acquisition;

–        A new pond at the golf course;

–        A new pedestrian bridge across Maroon Creek;

–        New public restrooms, plus storm water, irrigation and pumping improvements in Rio Grande Park;

–        Open space planning for Phase Two of the Burlingame Ranch affordable housing;

–        Two open space purchases, including the Lindsay Parcel on Smuggler Mountain.

 Spring Building may be greenest in Aspen

The roof of the new Spring Building features purple sage, Indian blanket, sweet William, coral bells, day lily, Russian sage, bearded iris, lemon thyme, coreopsis, coneflower, goldenrod and feather reed grass. Solar panels were mixed in with the garden to provide hot water for domestic use throughout the building. Thirteen geothermal wells will help heat and cool the commercial portion of the building.

The building, at the corner of Spring Street and Hopkins Avenue, has received accolades from city officials and others in the community. It was developed by Michael Rudin and his development company, Rudin West LLC.

Snowmass Village —

Related Cos. takes control of Base Village

Related Cos. closed on a $90 million deal for Base Village, acquiring title to the Viceroy Snowmass hotel, unsold Capitol Peak and Hayden Lodge residences, the Arrival Center, parking garage and various retail units and undeveloped parcels. The deal settles all lawsuits between the company and the consortium of four European banks that held the note on the project.

Related Colorado President Dwayne Romero told The Observer that unsold Viceroy condominiums will be marketed this fall and winter, and at least some of the nine developer-owned Capitol Peak and Hayden Lodge residences will also be offered.

Improvements are expected to begin very soon at the Arrival Center, with an eye toward removing traffic and drop-off pressure from Carriage Way this winter.

 “Mini-roundabout” may be coming from Europe

Snowmass Village is studying the possibility of a mini-roundabout, similar in design to roundabouts in southern Europe, at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Owl Creek Road.  Such a project would preclude the need for new retaining walls and relocation of utility lines and drop the cost to less than $200,000. The initial estimate for a full-size roundabout at that intersection was $2.4 million.

 Snowmass-Burnt Mountain expansion on hold

The U.S. Justice Department is in negotiations with a Wyoming-based a nonprofit group over the Aspen Skiing Co. plan to open three trails on Burnt Mountain.

The proposed expansion area, 230 acres in total, is a longtime favorite of backcountry skiers and snowboarders. Skico hopes to make it part of the Snowmass Ski Area, with oversight from ski patrol and avalanche control.

The Ark Initiative alleges that the Forest Service erroneously omitted between 600 and 1,000 acres of Burnt Mountain from the inventoried roadless area. The group has been working against ski area expansion on Burnt Mountain since 2006.

Basalt —

Deed restrictions may be lifted at Willits

Fiver owners at the Market Street Lofts in Willits Town Center have asked Town Council to remove the resident occupied deed restriction, which they say is preventing them from refinancing.

Town attorney Tom Smith warned that the council’s inclination to lift deed restrictions for those units would require similar treatment for other units in the affordable housing program, which is comprised of 34 rentals and 22 ownership units, including 13 RO units.

The request split the council 4-3, with the majority saying they would consider removing the limits. An ordinance making it so will be presented at an upcoming meeting.

 Basalt signs off on expansion plan for continuous care facility

An annexation plan proposed by the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, part of its plan to develop a continuous-care retirement community in Basalt, has been found in compliance with the town code.

Three different types of retirement housing — independent living, assisted-living or nursing care units — are envisioned for the property, which located on the parcel north of Basalt High School.  In all, 144 units are planned for the first two phases of development, with land set aside for a third phase should demand dictate an expansion.
The continuous-care retirement community would be unlike any other in the Roaring Fork Valley, providing differing levels of care on one campus. Demand for such facilities is expected to soar as the Roaring Fork Valley’s population ages.

 Willits drive-thru survives challenge

The drive-through coffee shop planned at Willits Town Center survived stiff opposition from residents to win approval from Town Council by a 4-3 vote.
Three former town council members and a member of the town’s Green Team urged the current council to reject the concept, arguing that approval would run counter to the town’s planning goals with Willits. They also pointed out that such a drive-thru would promote idling beyond the two minutes currently allowed.

Tim Belinski, leasing agent for the commercial space at Willits Town Center, countered that approving the proposal would keep the “momentum” going at the development.

 Family sues RFTA over price in eminent domain case

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Cathers family in Basalt will go to court to determine the value of the family’s property that was seized through eminent domain to allow for a park and ride lot that is part of the bus system expansion. RFTA’s initial offer was about $585,000, while an appraiser hired by the family valued the land at closer to $1 million.

 Sales tax collection flat in Basalt ahead of Whole Foods opening

Basalt sales tax revenues in July increased by only $53 — or 0.02 percent — in year over year comparisons. Year-to-date, Basalt retail sales are up 4 percent for the year. The Whole Foods effect on sales tax collection in both Basalt and Aspen will begin to be known with the August sales tax report.

 Basalt’s water among the best in the West

Basalt came in second out of 16 cities and towns in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico that entered water for a taste testing at an American Water Works Association conference at Copper Mountain. The town’s water-quality specialist delivered 2 liters of water in glass jars stored in a cooler to the competition. The five judges treated the water like wine samples, cleansing their palates between tastes.

Pitkin County —

Study calls for hundreds of new affordable housing units

A recently released housing study says that local income distribution, gathered from U.S. Census data, and housing-lottery demand indicates 657 affordable housing units need to be developed in the next decade to keep up with demand. And most of them, the report says, need to be priced for low and moderate income earners.

The study cites estimates of future job growth, gentrification and the growing number of retirees living in affordable housing as cause for concern in the coming years.

There is enough publicly owned land to accommodate 377 of the units; the remaining 280 would have to be accounted for through other means.

Shield-O open space deal falls through

Pitkin County’s contract to purchase 114 acres in the Shield-O subdivision in Old Snowmass, for $475,000, plus $194,000 in back taxes, has fallen through.

Open space planners hoped to build a new trail that would run through Shield-O to existing public trails at the Windstar Nature Preserve. But Windstar is for sale, and the board that oversees the property declined to allow a new trail.

The open space program has successfully purchased two other parcels — property adjacent to the Wingo Junction boat ramp and Gold Butte rock climbing area.

 Windstar on the market for $13.5 million

The Windstar Land Conservancy is seeking to sell the 957-acre nature preserve created by John Denver, with a 30-acre activity envelope where single-family home can be built. A conservation easement would remain in place on 927 acres. The asking price is $13.5 million.

The county might be asked to amend the conservation easement to allow for limited trailhead parking on the 30-acre parcel, which would make it easy for the public to continue to a hike and horseback ride on the land.

Proceeds from the sale will be split by the two nonprofit groups that control the land, the Windstar Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Institute. The Windstar Foundation board plans to give its half of the money from a sale of the land to local organizations doing work consistent with Denver’s vision and then shut down.

Denver bought the property in the late 1970s to create “a place up in the mountains where people would come to develop a critical consciousness in regard to the earth,” according to his autobiography.

ABC challenging airport design plan

John McBride and Rob Snyder, who, respectively, own and manage the Aspen Business Center across Highway 82 from the Pitkin County Airport, are challenging many of the premises in the yet-to-be-adopted airport master plan, including the proposed 80,000-square-foot, $120.8 million airport terminal.
They take issue with the use of national trends, retail sales and other non-facility-related factors to predict that passenger growth will reach 336,500 in 2022, up from 214,800 in 2000. Passenger traffic to and from Aspen peaked in the mid-1990s.

They are also critical of a parking plan that promotes car use over public transportation, and question whether the market can support a second fixed-base operator, which is planned on the Owl Creek side of the facility.

Airport Director Jim Elwood says the 80,000 square-footage number is a “space reservation,” and that approving the master plan does not assure construction will actually occur.

But Snyder and McBride point out that the master plan contains documents mapping out five phases of construction for the new terminal beginning in 2013 and finishing in 2017. The plan is currently before the county Planning and Zoning Commission.


County Assessor develops new fee program

Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac announced a new program that allows regular access to Assessor’s Office records for a monthly fee.  Patrons who pay $35 a month, or $350 a year, will be allowed unlimited access to in-depth record searches. Previously, people were required to pay $60 every time they wanted such data.

Isaac said the old system generated about $5,000 annually for the county, an amount he doesn’t expect to change much with the new system. Mainline data like ownership of an individual property, recent sales history, and size will continue to be free.


Younger locals want dog-friendly housing

Dog-friendly affordable housing is a real need, according to a number of the 20-to-40 year olds at the Aspen Democracy Initiative’s roundtable discussion on the housing program.

They pointed out that dog owners who otherwise qualify for affordable housing are forced to rent on the free market, paying a premium to house their pets. Suggested solutions include allowing dogs at new housing like Phase II Burlingame, or removing restrictions at existing projects.

The group was split over the need for “family-friendly” units, with young couples and parents wanting more units designed with their families in mind, while others in that demographic wished for more units where “you can’t hear babies crying through the walls.”

CORE adds rebates to its solar incentive programs

The Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) is offering new incentives and rebates for solar energy installations. CORE is expanding its rebate program to support leasing of solar panels, which is more affordable than purchasing. The rebates can run as high as $2,000. There are also new rebate options for work on solar water-heating systems. The program is open to residents and businesses in the Roaring Fork, Frying Pan and Crystal river valleys.


RFTA board split over Rio Grande Trail closure

A majority of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board of directors voted in favor of closing the Rio Grande Trail between Rock Bottom Ranch and Catherine Store Bridge on Nov. 15, two weeks earlier than the current policy. But the five votes were not enough for the super majority needed to make it happen.

The stretch in question is replete with bald eagles, blue herons and other wildlife. Wildlife biologist Jonathan Lowsky believes the earlier closure would help the birds establish nests ahead of winter. It also would benefit mule deer, according to his report to RFTA.

RFTA staff recommended against the change, noting that the public has behaved well to the existing closure dates.

Roxy’s gets expansion OK

Roxy’s Market has been approved to expand its Aspen Business Center grocery store to more than 10,000 square feet. While it will be substantially smaller than both City Market and Clark’s, the expansion will allow a larger deli and more food choices.

 Hyrup Feed & Ranch, longtime equestrian supplier, closes shop

Hyrup Feed & Ranch Supply —  a longtime supplier of feed for horses, dogs and other animals — closed for good lat month. Steve and Kris Hyrup’s store in El Jebel, was a must-stop for legions of devoted customers over the last 25 years. The couple said that it was time to move on, spurred perhaps by the fact that fewer people keep horses in the Roaring Fork Valley these days. The Carbondale Co-Op has promised to do its best to take care of Hyrup’s customers.

Mountain Rescue to purchase Planted Earth site

Mountain Rescue Aspen is under contract for the Planted Earth location across from the airport. The nonprofit plans to use it for a new headquarters and equipment storage. Planted Earth owner Bill Hawkins will consolidate his business and inventory to his location in Carbondale.

Downvalley and beyond —

No decision on Carbondale trash/recycling transfer station

The Garfield County commissioners postponed their decision on a controversial proposal to build trash transfer and recycling facility along Catherine Store Road outside Carbondale.
Silt-based Mountain Roll-offs Inc. and IRMW II LLC are seeking a land-use change permit to allow a transfer station at the former Mid-Continent coal-loading site. Trash haulers would bring solid waste and recycled material from around the valley to the station where it would be sorted and then packed into semi-trailers bound for the South Canyon landfill.

About 150 people, including residents from Carbondale and the unincorporated areas east of town limits, filled the commissioners’ meeting room. Most of the comments were against the facility, which would be located across the road from the rodeo grounds and ice rink. Opposition also focused on plans to send semi trucks loaded with garbage past two schools and a church.
The state public health agency will review the application and present its findings before the application comes back before the commissioners in November.

 Highway 82 bridge to be realigned

The new Highway 82 bridge across the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs will be realigned so it ends up closer to the on-ramp to Interstate 70, according to a plan adopted by CDOT. A gas station and a sports retail shop will be relocated to make way for the project. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2014.

Garfield County voters to decide on open space tax

Proposition 1A in Garfield County would create a new 0.25 percent sales tax to support open space preservation, raising approximately $2 million a year that would be used primarily to purchase development rights and place conservation easements on private land.

Seventy-five percent of proceeds would dedicated to purchasing conservation agreements, and 25 percent for access and property purchases. The tax would sunset in 10 years.


Glenwood Springs ‘all in’ for compressed natural gas station

Glenwood Springs City Council is willing to provide financial support and incentives for a proposed public/private partnership to build a compressed natural gas filling station. They are considering a plan in which $10,000 in city funds would be combined with contributions from Garfield County and the energy industry to create an incentive package for station construction.

Another CNG station is currently operating in Grand Junction, and the energy company Encana is planning to build a station in Parachute.

If you are searching for Aspen Real Estate contact Drew Kitchell with McKinley Sales Real Estate at 970.925.5900

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