Real Estate in the News – July 2016


Free-Market Units Still a Go in Aspen

Aspen City Council decided to hold off, for now, on banning new free-market residential units in the neighborhood commercial and service-commercial-industrial zone districts, opting to first gather more input from hired consultants and the public, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Council members had previously expressed conceptual support for keeping those zone districts — which mainly encompass the areas around North Mill Street and the block containing Aspen City Market — free of the high-end condos that have been shown to crowd out some commercial uses in the downtown core. But when the city’s planning office brought forward a policy resolution that, if passed, would have paved the way for the introduction of a code amendment later, council members decided the discussion needed more time.

The council in March passed a moratorium on new development applications for the town’s commercial districts, hoping to evaluate use mix, design guidelines, parking requirements and protected viewplanes. A major concern was that the “sterilization” that has occurred in the downtown core — where commercial operations have conflicted in some areas with nearby high-end real estate — is set to spread to surrounding zone districts.

Council Goes Back to Drawing Board with Power House Space

Aspen City Council broke off lease negotiations with the Aspen Power Plant group that wanted to bring a shared work space and restaurant to a historic riverside building, saying the process had grown too divisive and suggesting that the building should be used, at least temporarily, for municipal offices, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Council members spoke in somber tones while explaining their decision, and apologized to power plant proponents for the difficulties they’ve been through, while praising their perseverance. A standing-room-only crowd of both supporters and opponents of the power plant attended the work session in city council chambers in mid-June.

After selecting the Aspen Power Plant out of five finalists for the space in March 2015 — the others were the Aspen Science Center, a performing arts rehearsal and exhibition space, a Grassroots TV home base and event center and a community gathering place — neighbors in the Oklahoma Flats area began raising concerns about the formerly quiet building turning into a noisy draw focused on alcohol and special events. Theatre Aspen, which stages performances in a tent across the Roaring Fork River from the building, also objected to the prospect of noise and outdoor events nearby.

Aspen Finalizes Role as Host for 2017 FIS World Cup Finals

Aspen was given the final blessing as host venue for the 2017 Audi FIS World Cup Finals by the newly appointed governing council following the conclusion of the International Ski Federation’s week-long congress in Cancun, Mexico. The action-packed Finals will take place March 15-19, 2017 on Aspen Mountain and feature the top 25 women and men in eight technical and speed events plus a mixed-gender team race, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The U.S. Ski Team confirmed Aspen’s host status for the event which has been marked by an asterisk on the schedule, due to technical concerns, since it was awarded the 2017 FIS Alpine World Cup Finals bid two years ago in a surprise decision besting Lenzerheide, Switzerland and Andorra. This is the first time the World Cup Finals will have been hosted in the U.S. since 1997.


Snowmass Village Roundabout Project Is Nearly Complete

The new Snowmass Village roundabout opened at the end of June after two months of construction that involved lengthy traffic stoppages along the town’s main artery. The roundabout project will cost about $5 million once it’s complete.

Its next phase begins in July and will require nearly a month-long full closure of upper Brush Creek Road, but the worst of the project’s traffic delays are over, officials report.


Eagle County Commissioners Prioritize Childcare and Housing

Eagle County commissioners intend to put questions on the November ballot seeking voter approval for sales tax increases to fund affordable housing and early-childhood development, two commissioners said on a recent trip to the Roaring Fork Valley.

Commission Chairwoman Jeanne McQueeney and Commissioner Jill Ryan said they will craft specific ballot language this summer along with fellow board member Kathy Chandler-Henry.

Eagle County will commit to spending some of the funds in the Roaring Fork Valley, the two commissioners said following a meeting in El Jebel. El Jebel and a portion of Basalt are in Eagle County, as are parts of Missouri Heights, Fryingpan Valley and Emma. County officials estimate about a quarter of the county’s overall population is in the Roaring Fork Valley. The ballot issues would face a tough time getting approved if Roaring Fork Valley residents didn’t feel it would benefit their neck of the woods.

Three-tenths of a cent sales tax increase would raise an estimated $4.5 million annually. It is likely that the county would use funds for land acquisition and infrastructure, then work with a private sector developer to get housing constructed.


Carbondale Is Officially a Creative Place

Though the town has long thrived on its identity as a creative district, Carbondale has now officially been certified as a creative district by the state’s Colorado Creative Industries, the Aspen Daily News reported. With that designation comes money from the state — the packages average about $40,000 — technical and marketing support, access to more grants, special highway signs and training opportunities.

In April Carbondale also hosted CCI’s annual Creative Industries Summit. Though playing host seemed to make the town a shoo-in for the certification, CCI staffers were tight-lipped about Carbondale’s shot.

Alongside Carbondale were five more communities named the state’s newest certified creative districts: Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Fort Collins, Mancos and Golden Triangle in Denver. These communities join a dozen others that had already received the certification. All together, 15 communities applied for the creative district certification this year.


Glenwood Springs

Marijuana Sales Top $6 Million in Glenwood

The sale of marijuana, though still less than 1.5 percent of overall retail sales in Glenwood Springs, is becoming a significant sales sector for the city, on par with such things as home furnishings and taxable business services, the Post Independent reported.

According to a breakout analysis provided by city finance officials of marijuana sales since 2014, when recreational retail sales became legal in Colorado, pot has turned into a $6.3 million-a-year business for Glenwood Springs. In 2015, recreational sales alone accounted for nearly $4.5 million, up from $2.9 million in 2014 when Glenwood saw its first retail marijuana stores open up in May with the Green Dragon (formerly Greenwerkz) location on South Glen Avenue.

Following a contentious summer last year that saw several proposed new marijuana stores rejected by the city and a rewrite of the local zoning rules to control their proliferation, Glenwood Springs now has four marijuana stores offering recreational sales.


Pitkin County

County to Move Ahead with New Building

Groundbreaking on the Courthouse Plaza addition could begin by October, after the Pitkin County commissioners removed the final impediment standing in the way of a permit for the new public building, the Aspen Daily News reported.

By a unanimous vote during the June 13 special meeting, the five county commissioners overruled certain conditions, including a height and mass reduction, that were recommended for the 24,000-square-foot building addition by Aspen City Council through May’s Ordinance 10.

The county is able to use a review process called “locations and extent” allowed by state law in certain land-use applications related to the delivery of essential public health and safety services. The commissioners needed a two-thirds majority, or four of the five members, to overrule the concerns outlined by the city on May 9.

SkiCo Visits Up 3 Percent

A 161-day ski season, spanning from before Thanksgiving through Memorial Day weekend, contributed to the 3 percent rise in skier days at Aspen/Snowmass areas this season as compared to 2014/15, according to the Aspen Daily News.  

Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands led the way for the four local mountains in year-over-year increases of skier days, the metric by which lift tickets sales are counted in the industry. Colorado Ski Country USA released the season figures for the 21-member resorts during its annual meeting. The organization noted that its 7.4-million skier days for 2015/16 not only set a record and were up nearly 5 percent compared to last year’s totals, but had outpaced the five-year average by more than 10 percent. Ski country’s members don’t include the Vail Resorts areas, which include Breckenridge and Keystone and account for several million annual tickets.

Domestic business from traditional markets like New York, Chicago, Texas and California helped compensate for a bottoming out of business from key international markets Brazil and Australia that were hurt by the strong U.S. dollar.

County Moves Forward with Broadband Plan

Pitkin County is pushing ahead with the design of a broadband infrastructure model that would bring reliable high-speed internet service to thousands of unserved and underserved residents of the Roaring Fork Valley, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Phase two of the county’s broadband study now sets its sights on a viable network design to ensure that all businesses and residents can connect to the internet. The county was granted $150,000 from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) toward the design and analysis of phase two.

The envisioned infrastructure would incorporate existing, leased fiber lines; establish “meet-me points” in Basalt and Aspen; and add access towers in some of the more remote stretches of the valley including east of Aspen, up Maroon and Castle creeks, Old Snowmass, the Fryingpan River Valley, and in the Redstone and Marble areas. An early estimated price tag for the infrastructure tops $6 million.