Real Estate in the News – June 2016

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A rundown of government and business activity over the last month, focusing on issues and items that are of particular interest to the Real Estate community.

Aspen

Four Seasons Submits Plans for East Hopkins –

Developers have submitted plans with the city seeking to build a Four Seasons Hotel comprising four buildings that would include 118 lodging units, 22 fractional-ownership residents, four free-market residences and affordable housing for as many as 80 tenants, the Aspen Times reported.

The land-use application was filed by Florida-based Cisneros Real Estate with the Community Development Department. The three-parcel, 6.6-acre property eyed for a Four Seasons is located at the foot of Shadow Mountain on the 700 block of West Hopkins Avenue. In September, the City Council ruled that the residential-zoned property, which is part of a 19.6-acre swath of land, is eligible to be annexed from Pitkin County into city limits.

If the annexation comes to fruition, the developers plan to ask that the land be zoned for lodging, affordable housing and planned development. The application says allowing a hotel in a residential area would continue a “historic development pattern” that has seen other lodges — Aspen Meadows Resort, The Gant, St. Moritz Lodge and the new Aspen Club fractional project — built in residential areas.

The cumulative floor area for the Four Seasons’ lodge, free-market units, fractional units, restaurant and spa would encompass 181,974 square feet. The affordable-housing component’s floor area would span 24,018 square feet.

City Mulls Condo Ban

An Aspen City Council majority is ready to ban new free market residential condos in the North Mill Street commercial area, which would be the first land use code change to come out of the moratorium on new development, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The council is expected to take up a policy resolution at its June 6 regular meeting, following a work session where Mayor Steve Skadron, Councilman Adam Frisch and Councilman Bert Myrin said they favored making the code change. The public will have a chance to comment on the policy direction, and two ordinance readings would follow in July.

The city in 2012 banned free market residential units in the downtown core, citing concern that high-end residential real estate was crowding out commercial uses. That concern has since spread to surrounding commercial zone districts, where mixed-use commercial and residential development is still allowed, prompting the moratorium that passed via emergency ordinance in March. The upcoming policy resolution would outline the city’s desire to eliminate free market residential in specific zones, primarily north of Main Street, and encompass the Clark’s Market commercial plaza.

Snowmass

Property Owners Reminded About Lodging Tax

For the second straight year, the town of Snowmass Village sent a letter to every residential property owner warning them about the requirement to collect a nearly 13 percent tax on all lodging properties that are rented for less than 30 consecutive days, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The exploding popularity of the online vacation rental marketplace, including websites like Airbnb and VRBO, prompted the sternly worded notices. The letter, sent May 12 to homeowners and property managers, includes a large red font, underlined in part, that says the tax must be collected for private homes, rooms or any other property rented out for less than a month.

Snowmass Extends Moratorium on Pot Sales

The city of Aspen may have seven pot stores and is considering licenses for more, but Snowmass Village will remain a pot store-free zone until at least March 15, 2017, the Aspen Daily News reported. That’s due to an extension of a temporary moratorium on medical and retail marijuana establishments in the town that was enacted by ordinance in 2014. The discussion by the council at the time ranged from concern over sullying the resort’s family friendly reputation to waiting to see what, if any, unintended consequences result from marijuana businesses elsewhere.

In 2015, Aspen’s seven dispensaries were responsible for more than $8 million in sales. Recreational pot became legal in 2012 following a decisive statewide popular vote resulting in Amendment 64 being added to the Colorado constitution. With legalization came the ability for local regulation, including giving municipalities the chance to opt out of selling pot.

Basalt

Element Hotel Boosts Town’s Tax Revenue

Basalt’s retail sales nudged up 2.56 percent during the first quarter of 2016 and raised $1.12 million in sales tax revenue for the town coffers, the Aspen Times reported. While the lodging sector remains a small part of Basalt’s overall sales picture, it showed phenomenal growth to start the year, reflecting the opening of the Element by Westin hotel. Sales tax revenue from lodging nearly tripled during the first quarter compared with the same period in 2015.

Revenue from the 3 percent sales tax on lodging soared from $11,461 in first quarter 2015 to $32,438 this year. The 113-room Element hotel opened in mid-December, essentially doubling Basalt’s inventory of tourist accommodations. Lodging properties in Basalt also pay a 4 percent lodging tax.

Basalt Moves Forward on Affordable Housing

The Basalt Town Council threw its support and some financial backing behind a proposal for a 56-unit affordable apartment complex that’s been caught in limbo for three years, the Aspen Times reported. The council unanimously voted to lobby in support of Real America’s effort to get state tax credits to help it build the Roaring Fork Apartments adjacent to Stubbies bar.

Real America will apply this summer for credits from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority in a highly competitive process. The company failed to earn tax credits last year because local entities did not provide adjunct funding. To remedy that, council said it will provide $175,000 if the project is awarded the credits. The funds will be provided when Real America gets its building and other permits, so it’s essentially a reduction in what the company will owe the public coffers.

Real America has approvals for 45 one-bedroom and 11 two-bedroom apartments. They would be rented to Roaring Fork Valley residents at rates that comply with Basalt’s affordable housing regulations. The project will remain deed restricted throughout its lifetime.

Carbondale

Residents Look to Improve Third Street Corridor

Carbondale has $400,000 budgeted for streetscape improvements to Third Street, an area that has become a high-traffic area for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, because it’s the corridor between Main Street, the library and the Third Street Center.

Design of the streetscape improvements is in its brainstorming phase and almost completely unwritten, though the town plans to fix some drainage issues where sidewalks are well-known to hold ponds in rainstorms. In May, a group walked the corridor to come up with plans to improve it, including developing a community garden and expanding ditch access to more homeowners for wild water irrigation.

Glenwood Springs

Retail Sales Rise Despite Construction

Growth in retail sales for Glenwood Springs slowed some in March, but the city still ended the first quarter of 2016 more than 4.3 percent ahead of last year at this time, despite the start of a two-year construction project. The $125.6 million bridge project will conclude with a new four-lane bridge connecting Interstate 70 to state Highway 82 and Glenwood Springs’ main drag, Grand Avenue.

According to the March sales tax report, retail stores, restaurants and taxable services saw a 2.8 percent increase in sales activity for the month compared with March 2015. Glenwood Springs has seen 26 straight months of gains in retail sales in the month-over-month comparison that includes five years of sales tax data. Year to date, the city has collected more than $3.7 million in sales taxes on roughly $100 million in retail sales.

Sports Authority Gets the Final Whistle

Bankrupt sporting-goods chain Sports Authority will close all of its remaining stores, including the one at Glenwood Meadows, and could leave Glenwood Springs and other Western Slope markets without a general sporting-goods outlet, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.

Unless a buyer such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, the nation’s largest sporting-goods retailer, sees value in taking over what Sports Authority itself considered a profitable location, the town will be without a major sporting-goods store. Markets such as Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, which have few other options for general sporting goods such as athletic shoes, equipment and apparel, especially for youth and prep athletes, would seem to be ripe for another retailer to move in.

Pitkin County

Voters to See Open Space Ballot Question in November

Seeking greater flexibility on managing critical lands, rather than buying them, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails laid out the particulars of a planned ballot question that will go before voters in November. The current 3.75 mill levy will remain the same, meaning no tax hike.

But the department wants voter approval to allocate funds to areas other than acquisition. When the program was first brought to voters in 1990, it required that 75 percent of funding be used toward property acquisitions. But 25 years later, more funding is needed to maintain those properties, which now top 20,000 acres. The maintenance budget is currently set at 15 percent of the fund, with 10 percent allocated toward trails.

The ballot question would also ask voters to approve a 20-year extension of the tax, which is set to sunset in 2020. The department is asking that the allocation figures be changed from: 75 down to as little as 25 percent for allocations; up to 40 percent for trails; and from 15 to as much as 35 percent for maintenance.

Maroon Bells Bus Ticket Goes Up to $8

The bus ride to the popular Maroon Bells wilderness area will see a $2 hike this year to help the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority keep pace financially with an ever-increasing number of visitors, the Aspen Daily News reported.

The RFTA board, which consists of elected officials from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and New Castle, approved the fare increase unanimously, brushing off concerns that the heightened toll would drive tourists and locals away from the natural wonder. Last summer, RFTA saw record service levels on the route with 174,000 one-way rides, necessitating a fare hike to keep operations out of the red. In 2009, by comparison, 74,700 rides were taken on the route.

Adults will now pay $8 for the trip, while seniors and youths (ages 6 to 16) will fork over $6. Kids younger than 6 ride for free.