Marijuana Lounges Tabled by Council
Consumption laws for smoking lounges in the state of Colorado are to be presided over by local municipalities, but Aspen City Council recently decided that talking about indoor smoking lounges in the midst of a pandemic — particularly as COVID-19 is known as a respiratory disease that spreads within enclosed spaces — is not a priority for them, the Aspen Daily News reported. Council agreed that the many priorities staff are pursuing to support public health or Aspen’s hard-hit economy were worth addressing ahead of adopting an ordinance legalizing consumption lounges.
City Sales Tax Drops 16% First Five Months of 2020
Aspen’s overall retail sales through the first five months of the year were $280.59 million, a 16% decrease compared with the January-to-May period of 2019, the Aspen Daily News reported. The accommodations category, which is primarily made up of lodging revenue, garnered $87.47 million, a decrease of 24.1% compared with the same period last year.
Also, through May, Aspen restaurants and bars collectively suffered a 20.8% drop in revenue, pulling in $45.07 million. Collectively, the accommodations and restaurant-bar sectors made up 45.5% of all retail sales in the city from January to May 2020.
Hundreds Apply for 10 Housing Units
The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has not added new rentals to its holdings in about 20 years, and the demand shows it, the Aspen Daily News reported. Almost 170 residents applied for 10 one-bedroom newly constructed units at 802 W. Main St. at the West End’s S-curves.
Five of the units are reserved for residents who qualify under Category 2 income restrictions, meaning a single person cannot earn more than $65,750 annually and a couple may not have combined earnings over $75,150. Those apartments rent for $1,112 a month. The remaining four units are assigned Category 3, meaning an individual cannot earn more than $100,600 and a couple may not have combined income of over $114,950. The monthly rent is $1,576.
Building Permits Still on Fast-Track
The city’s effort to fast-track building permits in order to boost the local economy due to the impacts of COVID-19 has allowed more projects to get approved quicker, which is a trend elected officials want to continue, the Aspen Times reported. Aspen City Council agreed that continuing to improve processes and creating more innovation for all the agencies that sign off on building permits is the right direction, acknowledging that construction is a significant contributor to the economy.
However, expediting permits at the rate the staff has for the past three months is not sustainable past the summer, the community development director said. When council directed staff to fast-track construction permits in April, employees reprioritized their work, but it was at the expense of other community and departmental needs. There are vacancies in the planning division, and in the building department, a part-time field inspector position will be open in the coming months.
New Medical Clinic Finally Opens
When the Base Village development was originally approved in 2004, a new medical clinic was included in the plans, which called for opening the facility within two years. Sixteen years later, the new Snowmass Medical Clinic finally opened its doors on July 1, the Aspen Daily News reported. The medical facility was delayed because of the 2008 recession and stalled after development plans changed. The state-of-the-art, walk-in clinic features seven fully private patient rooms, a triage room, general X-ray services and more, plus an expanded gym and new rehabilitative technologies for physical therapy patients. It encompasses 6,300 square feet.
Romero Group Purchases Lakota Canyon
The Lakota Canyon Golf Club and a significant amount of developable land in New Castle were acquired recently by Basalt-based The Romero Group for $1.5 million, the Aspen Daily News reported. Principal Dwayne Romero confirmed acquiring the golf club and 122 acres of developable land from bankruptcy court.
Romero announced the purchase of the 18-hole championship course that was designed by Jim Engh, who also oversaw the redo of the Snowmass Club’s course and designed Redlands Mesa in Grand Junction and Golden’s Fossil Trace. Lakota Ranch first opened for play in May 2004. Based in Basalt, The Romero Group owns a majority of the Snowmass Village Mall — which it bought in June 2018 from Related Colorado for $28.5 million — and handles property management contracts including Aspen Highlands.
Tree Farm Receives Final Approval
After 27 years of development back-and-forth, Ace Lane received final approval for his Tree Farm, the Aspen Times reported. The final plat approval requires Lane to provide a $7 million letter of credit to guarantee the landscaping and road improvements will be completed. Lane can proceed with preparations of phase two of the project, which features some of the main components of his plan — a four-story, 122-room hotel and a 77-residence independent living facility for people age 55 and older.
Lane’s property is across Highway 82 from Whole Foods, the site of his existing Kodiak Lake. The hotel is contemplated at the northeast intersection of Highway 82 and Willits Lane. The independent living complex would be up valley of the hotel. Phase 2 also features 196 apartment units, with capped rents on 40 of them. The Tree Farm site is nearly 43 acres, of which 22 acres will be open space. Phase 1 features a mix of residential and commercial space.
Car Wash Eyes Vacant Land
The Basalt Town Council gave the first of two approvals needed for an automated car wash at 115 Southside Dr., which is currently vacant land at the intersection with Cody Lane on the east or up valley side of Big O Tires, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. If approved, east-bound or up valley traffic on Highway 82 will see a storage business, Big O Tires, the proposed car wash and a RFTA bus station when they first encounter east Basalt. The applicant, the van Rooyen Group LLC, has a contract to purchase the land from Aspen Skiing Co. for $1.3 million.
Corby Anderson Names KDNK Executive Director
Longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident and radio voice Corby Anderson has been selected to take the helm of community radio station KDNK in Carbondale and is the first station chief with the title of executive director, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. Other changes for the local public radio station and NPR affiliate include naming Amy Hadden Marsh as news director, stepping in for Lucas Turner who will continue as a part-time reporter; and Raleigh Burleigh will take over public affairs duties.
Coffman Ranch Closer to Preservation
Major headway was made in the effort to conserve the Coffman Ranch when Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) awarded a $2.5 million grant to Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) to help purchase and conserve the 141-acre property, the Sopris Sun reported. The project needs a total of $8.5 million to conserve and steward the land. The purchase price of $6.5 million is a discounted amount, as Rex and Jo Coffman donated over $1 million in land value to AVLT. The additional $2 million is needed to take care of the property and manage a portion of soon-to-be community accessible land, a project that is still in the works.
AVLT has raised about $4.5 million for the project so far, though only the GOCO grant is official right now. Pitkin County has pledged to donate $2 million to put land in a conservation easement, but the donation still has to go through an appropriations process. Discussions with Garfield County and Carbondale about financial contributions are currently in the works.
The Coffman Ranch property lies between Catherine Store Road and the Roaring Fork River, and is only two miles from downtown Carbondale.
More Mountain Bike Trails Being Built
Mountain bikers will soon have more options for single-track fun in western Garfield County as the city of Rifle and the Rifle Area Mountain Bike Organization start moving forward on carving a new trail system through the pinyon and juniper trees north of Rifle, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. The first phase of the 18-mile project is expected to cost just over $90,000, which organizers hope to start the beginning of September, and will include nearly 7 miles of single-track trails.
Draft Distillery Proposal Receives Pushback
Pitkin County commissioners are delaying the first reading of the proposal for the agricultural-centric spirits distillery in the midvalley until late August, the Aspen Daily News reported. They made the decision during a contentious meeting that saw a range of concerns surrounding the proposal — from light and noise pollution to upticks in truck traffic relating to inventory deliveries to future implications of rezoning the currently lone unzoned parcel in the region — but water rights and usage remained the undercurrent of trepidation.
The applicant is looking to pull water rights from the Kester Ditch as part of a proposed farm-to-distillery operation near Hoaglund Ranch. Commissioners said they did not have enough information in the initial reading — including what would be grown and distilled — to make any sort of informed decision.
CORE Act Passes House
The U.S. House passed the CORE Act, which aims to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of Colorado public lands and waters, as a rider to a national defense bill, the Aspen Daily News reported. The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which includes protections for the Thompson Divide area west of Aspen, passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The act also would designate Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained during World War II, as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape. It now moves on to the Senate.
RFTA Goes Cashless
Cash is no longer accepted on RFTA buses starting Aug. 1, in the valley’s continuing continuous response to COVID-19, the Aspen Daily News reported. There will be no more free rides on regional routes in the Roaring Fork Valley and west to Rifle, where fees were suspended during COVID. Buses in the city of Aspen and town of Snowmass Village remain free. And the Ride Glenwood route is an exception to the new cashless policy.