Outdoor Dining Structures to Come Down
With Covid waning, Aspen officials decided that restaurants will need to remove the covered structures that have been installed in the downtown core by May, the Aspen Daily News reported. The structures will revert back to public parking spaces, in most cases. Some restaurants and retail businesses continue to rely on the extra seating, free space and business brought in by the additional structures. Meat & Cheese, Kemo Sabe and French Alpine Bistro, Creperie du Village are among those that have structures coming down. Others, such as Jing and Local Coffee Shop, can apply for permits, assuming they meet building codes, to keep them up because they exist on the restaurant’s property.
Aspen Police Department Release Year in Review
The Aspen Police Department is in good shape, according to an annual report, the Aspen Daily News reported. The report also praised the department’s staff of about 40 for their support and quality service. In 2020, APD responded to 1,507 traffic stops, 204 mental health calls, 46 reports of fraud and 533 animal calls. Last year, they responded to 2,799 traffic stops, 332 mental health calls, 114 reports of fraud and 844 animal calls. Officers also responded to 314 bear and wildlife reports last year, 761 security alarm activations, 222 reports of theft — including 14 motor vehicle thefts — and 462 property or injury accident reports. Fraud increased by 148% in Aspen this year, creating a major concern for the community, according to the report. Most were related to cybersecurity and online scams such as puppy scams.
Jazz Aspen Announces June Lineup
Jazz Aspen Snowmass has announced the initial line-up of both artists and venues for the JAS Experience, set for June 23-26 in downtown Aspen, the Aspen Daily News reported. The Experience will consist of multiple staggered shows daily, taking place at 10 different venues, allowing attendees the opportunity to stroll around town and enjoy a full night of diverse music genres and settings. Musicians include Keb’ Mo’, Take 6, Christian McBride, Kamasi Washington, Poncho Sanchez, and Bria Skonberg.
Retail Sales Eclipse $1 Billion
Taxable sales in Aspen’s retail arena topped $1 billion for all of 2021, making it the first time the 10-figure mark has been cracked in a single calendar year, the Aspen Times reported. Total sales from last year finished at $1,020,753,218. The 2021 figures coasted past performances from previous years. That included 2020, which recorded $766,222,659 in taxable retail sales in Aspen, while 2019, a pre-pandemic year, amounted to $819,757,641 in total sales.
City Council Examines Strategic Affordable Housing Plan
Aspen City Council had a chance to review a draft strategic plan for affordable housing, the Aspen Daily News reported. The 33-page document includes priority actions such as replacing expiring deed restrictions with new ones, completing the Lumberyard project, completing Burlingame Phase 3, affordable housing program advancements, developing financial resources for construction, expiring deed restrictions and land banking, incentivizing voluntary downsizing, building partnerships, working with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority on compliance and policy, development neutral programs and regional collaboration.
Council Warm to Short-Term Rental Permits
Developing a short-term rental permit process in Snowmass Village is an idea that elected officials and staff said they could get behind during ongoing talks about vacation rentals, the Aspen Times reported. The town requires a business license for short-term rental operators but does not have a permitting process specific to individual short-term rental units. The proposal would help the town both track and regulate the inventory of homes, condos and other units that are rented out to visitors. The town will be workshopping that proposed permitting process as the conversation about short-term rentals moves forward, but there are no policies set in stone yet. Also on the table for discussion is a proposal to ask voters about expanding the use of the lodging tax and marketing sales taxes to support workforce housing initiatives The taxes are currently restricted to tourism and marketing efforts.
Blue Lake Selected for Willits Child Care Center
Basalt is on track to add child care for between 130 and 145 infants, toddlers, preschoolers and young school-aged kids per day in a facility planned in Willits, the Aspen Times reported. Last month, town council approved an agreement to designate Blue Lake Preschool as the provider of child care at property owned by the town. The town will provide Blue Lake Preschool with a favorable lease for use of what is now vacant land at the intersection of Willits Lane and Lewis Lane. Blue Lake would be responsible for building the structure.
Basalt’s Sales Tax Stays Strong
Sales tax number are up in Basalt, reflecting a strong post-Covid recovery, the Aspen Times reported. Basalt collected $850,326 in sales tax in December, which reflects actual sales in November. That was up 24.7% from the same month the year before. For the entire fiscal year — sales from December 2020 through November 2021 — the town’s sales tax collections were up 18%. Basalt collected $9.07 million last year compared to $7.68 million in 2020.
Carbondale to Decide on Land Donation’s Future
At the end of 2021, a $2.4 million dedication of several undeveloped downtown parcels of land was given to the town of Carbondale, and now trustees are seeking a consultant to assess what the town possesses and what the land could become. The gift came from the owners of 14 vacant parcels in the Town Center development located across Colorado Avenue from Carbondale Town Hall and the town’s recreation center. With the exception of a commercial building fronting Fourth and Colorado and the Thunder River Theatre Co. building, the area has remained undeveloped since it was subdivided in the early 2000s after the former Bonanza Mobile Home Park was razed. The year-end donation also included two vacant parcels at the southeast corner of Fourth and Main streets that for several years have been used by special agreement with the owners as a venue for numerous town events and a winter ice-skating rink.
Redstone-McClure Pass Trail Draws Public Attention
Nearly 400 public comments submitted to the U.S. Forest Service leave no doubt that the Redstone to McClure Pass trail remains extremely controversial, the Aspen Times reported. The comments generally fell into two camps — cyclists who want a safe alternative to Highway 133 and people who contend wildlife will pay too high of a price from the new route. The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District released a draft Environmental Assessment Jan. 20 that analyzes the potential effects of a proposal by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails to build a 7-mile, natural surface, non-motorized trail from Redstone to the McClure Pass summit.
Council Discusses Overlay Zone Possibility
Glenwood Springs City Council discussed the possibility of an overlay zone downtown, in the wake of two old buildings that were demolished, displacing several small businesses, to house ANB Bank, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. If ever implemented, the zone would make it incredibly difficult for the first floor of a newly constructed building to be occupied by anything that did not generate sales or lodging tax for the city — like professional offices or banks. The overlay zone would require new non-residential buildings going up on vacant lots to generate sales “and/or” lodging tax in at least 75% of its first floor’s “gross floor area.”
Glenwood Springs Lodging Strongest in the State
Despite pandemic precautions, interstate shutdowns and the closure of Hanging Lake Trail, Glenwood Springs’ lodging and tourism industries finished 2021 strong, the Aspen Times reported. Occupancy has increased year over year and the municipality is beating out competitive markets. According to a Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association report released in January, Glenwood Springs experienced a higher occupancy rate, 70%, throughout 2021 than any other city, town or municipality in the state — despite a $30 increase in the average daily rate at Glenwood Springs’ lodging locations.
SkiCo Announces $3/hour Wage Increase
The Aspen Skiing Co. announced that the company is investing about $12 million in across-the-board raises for all staff — at $3/hour per employee, the Aspen Daily News reported. In November, the company increased its minimum wage from $15 to $17 an hour, and increased its lowest salary amount to $50,000. The announcement impacts roughly 4,000 people throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
Buttermilk to Get $23 Million Upgrade
Skico plans to invest $23 million in new and remodeled facilities at the base of Buttermilk this summer, the Aspen Times reported. An aging facility simply known as “the green building” at the center of the base will be scrapped and replaced with a one-story, 9,300-square-foot structure that will house the ticket office, ski and snowboard rentals, ski school, public bathrooms and a large lobby.
The ticket office that currently operates in the lower floor in the Bumps building will move to the new building. In its place will be offices for mountain operations. The stairs that greet people entering the Bumps building will be moved outside, freeing up square footage inside for the expansion of the restaurant and ground floor.
Pitkin County Divests from Guns, Oil, Tobacco
In a bid to promote social responsibility, Pitkin County’s future investments will not support companies that make most of their money from tobacco, guns or fossil fuels, the Aspen Times reported. Commissioners supported the proposal which would be approved later this year. The new investing policy, “Environmental, Social Governance” investing and “Socially Responsible Investing” — will serve as a guide for future investments.
Brush Creek Park & Ride Delayed Due to Construction Costs
Long-discussed improvements expected to be completed this summer at the Brush Creek park-and-ride lot will be postponed another year because of rising construction costs, the Aspen Times reported. Two construction bids for the project, which will include permanent bathrooms, came in at more than twice and close to triple the initial construction estimate. The bidding process will be repeated in the fall, with summer 2023 the new expected completion date. The improvements were not only slated to include bathrooms with septic infrastructure, the estimated $5.6 million price tag also was to include 200 newly paved parking spaces — now covered by recycled asphalt — to go with the 200 currently paved spaces. Security lighting, additional landscaping and a carpool kiosk were included as part of the improvements, while food trucks also have been talked about for the site.