KAJX

Base2 lodge debate focuses on nostalgia versus growth

Oct 13, 2015

Opponents Ward Hauenstein and Maurice Emmer joined proponents Dwayne Romero and Mark Hunt onstage at the Belly Up Tuesday. Both sides discussed the pros and cons of Base2 lodge with APR News Director Carolyn Sackariason.
Credit Marci Krivonen

Supporters and opponents of a hotel development in Aspen, debated density, parking and employee housing Tuesday. 

Aspen Public Radio held a town hall meeting at the Belly Up regarding ballot question 2A. If voters approve it, Base2 lodge could become a reality. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Base2 was approved by City Council but a citizen petition forced it to this fall’s ballot. Now it’s up to voters to decide the fate of the proposed 37-room lodge. If built, it would replace a gas station on the corner of Monarch and Main streets.

One issue Tuesday was parking. Opponents doubt the developer’s promises for an underground parking garage at Base2. Developer Mark Hunt says he’s committed.

"I can say there’s a guarantee for on-site parking and if there’s not, then the project doesn’t go forward."

Opponents argue Hunt’s promises - are just that - promises, and are not legally binding.

On the issue of employee housing, opponent Ward Hauenstein argues Base2 won’t provide enough units for workers.

"We know it’s going to take at least 11 employees, probably more, to run that lodge and Base2 supplies employee mitigation for 1.63."

Base2 is following city law by providing less than two units. And, Hunt, who has multiple Aspen properties, says he’s already supplied housing in partnership with another developer, Peter Fornell.

"Collectively with Peter, we’re actually providing close to 100," he says.

He says the rooms at Base2 will be affordable. Aspen Public Radio news director Carolyn Sackariason questioned the price.

Sackariason: "You’ve said it’s going to be $400/night sometimes. How is that affordable?"

Hunt: "I’d be shocked for a room that size to ever get to $400. I’ve always said I think they’d average out at $200.”

Opponents say Base2 violates zoning rules and doesn’t fit in in the area where it’s proposed. Hauenstein says it’s an example of the wrong kind of growth for Aspen.

"I want to see Aspen retain its character and retain what it is about this town that makes it so special. And if we continue to grow and urbanize, we’re going to kill the golden goose."

His words resonated with Aspen resident AJ Waski. He’s voting against the lodge.

"If we allow this one, then there’s another and then another. Before you know it, somebody owns most of the town and they have a lot of interest and power. I don’t want to see this place turn into Vail.”

Voter Damien Williamson supports Base2 and thinks it will bring vitality.

"I’m definitely for a younger, more vibrant Aspen where younger folks can come and have a place to stay that’s affordable. I want them to enjoy Aspen like I have."

One voter who’s undecided says the most contentious area is nostalgia versus moving the town forward. He sees validity in both sides. Ballots arrive in the mail this week and will be counted Nov. 3rd.