Aspen City Council tables Gorsuch Haus
The Aspen City Council heard another round of public feedback over the Gorsuch Haus proposal Monday and decided again that it needs more time to make a decision on the polarizing project.
Developer Norway Island LLC returned to City Council Chambers with a revised land-use application that cuts down the 67-room hotel property’s overall size and scale to the satisfaction of its supporters but not its opponents.
“If we can agree on the big idea, then the details can be filled in, and we will get them right,” said Jeff Gorsuch of Norway Island. “The big idea represents the (Lift) 1A side of town, but also the whole community.”
Themes emerging from three hours of comments from resident after resident, as well as even relatives of Gorsuch, included the often-heard arguments that either the western side of Aspen Mountain needs to be rejuvenated or the hotel would negatively impact the quaint area.
According to a tally from the public relations firm representing Gorsuch, 17 people spoke in favor of the proposal, nine were against it, and six held neutral positions.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins’ tallies were different: “If you count it up, it’s 50-50.”
Indisputable is that the proposal’s latest rendition puts the overall square footage at 84,500 feet, the total above-grade floor area at 59,665 square feet and a 25 percent increase of public outdoor space, among other alternations. New to the proposal are a building for skier guest services and potential worker housing, and a widened entrance to the ski-lift area with a larger turnaround circle.
“I think what several people have said tonight, trying to build a hotel south of Dean Street is a difficult proposition in part because of transit,” said Councilman Bert Myrin.
The council was not ready to decide on the land-use reviews, taking Deputy Planning Director Jennifer Phelan’s advice to table the matter and have another public hearing.
One element weighing on Mayor Steve Skadron is the “notion that we could destroy a citadel of ski tranquility over there.”
“Here’s my struggle: I love this side of the mountain because it is quiet,” he later said, adding “I think the building has to be smaller.”
Skadron advised the developers to meet with neighbors about their concerns as well before the project comes back to the council.
Mullins voiced concerns about what she called the “privatization” of the new lift because of its limited accessibility, as well as mountain views that the Gorsuch Haus would obstruct.
“When I see this project,” said resident Patrice Becker, “I see open space filled with concrete.”
Another critic, Dennis Murray, contended that he disagrees with the sentiment that the Lift 1A area is dilapidated.
“I don’t think it’s a blight,” he said “It’s one of the most soulful places in town.”
Murray, as well as others, also took aim at statements from FIS, which put on the World Cup Finals on the 1A side earlier this month, that the ski races won’t return to Aspen if a new lift is not installed and the base area’s facilities are not upgraded.
As part of an agreement with the Gorsuch developers, Aspen Skiing Co. would build a new lift to replace the 1972-built Lift 1A, which runs halfway up the mountain.
Others said the time is now to get Gorsuch going.
Resident Ruth Kruger urged the council to move forward with Gorsuch Haus before the cyclical economy spirals south.
“It’s such a fabulous area to ski, but it’s such a disgrace as the base of our ski center and our ski races,” she said. “We really need to get this done; we really do.”
Said David Guthrie: “Can we just move forward? Does it have to be a nuclear winter before we building something?”
Councilman Art Daily is not participating in the Gorsuch Haus proceeding because the law firm he works for has represented the developer; Adam Frisch was absent as well because he was vacationing with family on Spring Break.