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Water, Electricity Bills to Rise
Aspen residents and businesses can expect their water and electric bills to climb slightly in 2023 as the city tries to keep up with rising costs of services and goods, the Aspen Daily News reported. The rate and fee increases, like most things these days, are tied to inflation and rising supply cost.
The rate and fee increases will depend on whether the customer is a residential or commercial unit, as well as its location. For example, downtown residences may see a 5.78% increase to their water rate, while residents in “pump zones” near Red Mountain or Buttermilk may see a nearly 7% increase. Similarly, the average Aspen electric bill is expected to increase by about 1.5% next year, while larger homes and businesses may be charged 3-4% more. There are also levels in the electric fund for affordable-housing neighborhoods, senior citizens and small commercial businesses, all of which can expect their electric bills to increase between 1-2%.
Occupancy Down in Aspen, Snowmass this Summer
Occupancy at commercial lodging properties in Aspen and Snowmass Village fell 12.8% in August, mirroring a trend experienced throughout the summer, the Aspen Daily News reported.
The latest occupancy report showed that Aspen and Snowmass Village were 60.9% full in August this year compared to 69.9% last August. The drop can be attributed to loosening Covid-19 restrictions that prompted people to go overseas. In addition, the number of available rooms has increased, which affects the occupancy percentage.
Actual occupancies for the entire summer, May through October, show that occupancy is down 12.8% for Aspen and Snowmass Village combined. Despite the drop in occupancy over the summer, properties in Aspen experienced a surge in the average daily rate compared to last year, while Snowmass Village is flat. Aspen’s average daily rate currently stands at $628 for the summer — compared to $540 last year. Snowmass Village has an average daily rate of $281 compared to $280 last year.
Construction on the White Elephant Underway
Site work for three unbuilt residential chalets being advertised for $25 million each has started in the West End neighborhood as part of a Boston company’s project that also calls for the redevelopment of the Hotel Aspen into a luxury boutique lodge, the Aspen Times reported. The residential development known as the White Elephant Aspen Townhomes is slated for East Bleeker Street and is located across from the Yellow Brick Schoolhouse and around the corner of a White Elephant Hotel planned for Main Street. Construction on the new hotel is scheduled to begin later this fall and last 24 months. The hotel has a scheduled opening of late 2024.
A limited liability controlled by New England Development LLC, a privately held Boston-based firm, bought the Hotel Aspen property on 110 E. Main St. and development entitlements for $37.5 million in October 2021. With the acquisition came approvals to build a 54-bedroom hotel and build three 5,000-square-foot homes.
Town Says Krabloonik Must Leave
Having been found out of compliance with its lease and failure to provide proof of how the errors will be rectified, Krabloonik was issued a final notice of default by the Town of Snowmass Village on Oct. 6 and vacated Nov. 1, the Aspen Daily News reported. Krabloonik is a dog-sledding operation, and the owners must rehome the 156 dogs that currently live there. The dogs’ futures are up to the owner to figure out, and the town will not play a role in rehoming them. The Aspen Animal Shelter and Colorado Animal Rescue work with Krabloonik to adopt out retired dogs, but the shelters don’t have room for all 156.
Eagle County Nears Deal with Farmer Regarding Land Use
Longtime farmer and agricultural leader Jerome Osentowski is closer to reaching a deal with Eagle County that will secure the future of his legacy business, the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, on Basalt Mountain, the Aspen Daily News reported. The county originally denied his request for a special use permit on the demonstration farm citing health and safety concerns.
The two parties reached a draft deal that will be potentially approved in late November that asks Osentowski to meet a number of requirements including upgraded access—the property is on a steep, rugged road—as well as temporary infrastructure, such as port-a-potties, to deal with sewage treatment. Dozens of people spoke in support of Osentowski and his organization.
Town Adopts First Affordable-Housing Program
The town of Carbondale is putting its first-ever affordable housing plan into action, the Aspen Daily News reported. There are currently over 100 homes listed for sale in Carbondale, but only six units for sale are listed at under $1 million. Nearly 20 years ago, the town adopted an inclusionary housing ordinance that requires any development with over five units to be deed-restricted, and in 2016, the town also finalized the unified development code to mitigate the impacts of free-market residential development on the community and the land.
Batch Closes Its Doors
Aly Sanguily and Chase Engel, married owners and operators of Batch Provisions, closed their doors in early November, the Aspen Daily News reported. Batch moved in at 358 Main St., a building that’s over 110 years old, in 2017. Following the success of a Roaring Fork Beer Company tasting room near the production facility on Dolores Way, the downtown location became a First Friday staple and favorite year-round nook for locals and tourists alike.
The couple found out their lease would not be renewed because the entire building is for sale. They also cited the increasing cost of running a business and a loss of employees because of affordability as challenges to continuing to keep Batch open.
City Partners with Habitat for Humanity on Two Units
Habitat for Humanity is working with the city of Glenwood Springs to build two new housing developments, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. Earlier this year, Glenwood Springs City Council agreed to partner with Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley to build two affordable housing units on city-owned parcels of land. Now they are drafting a deed restriction agreement and memorandum of understanding. One unit is planned to go up at Eighth Street and Midland Avenue while the second is planned to go in by on Airport Road called the Iddings project.
Pitkin County Landfill Diversion Works, Cities Need to Sign On
Pitkin County’s landfill in the hills above Aspen Village is in danger of reaching capacity in about eight years, and the recent implementation of a construction debris diversion program is helping to extend its life, the Aspen Daily News reported. About 18,610 tons of construction debris was hauled to the landfill between January and September this year, accounting for nearly 52% of the buried waste in the landfill.
The debris reduction program requires people undertaking a construction project in unincorporated Pitkin County to pay a deposit of $1,000 per ton of estimated waste for a project. They then track the waste diversion and waste. Any project that separates all recoverable materials and diverts a minimum of 25% of the total project waste by weight gets a full refund. There were 34 projects that had to pay a deposit between January and the end of August 2022. Twenty-eight of them qualified for a full refund. Now officials are hoping that the city of Aspen and Town of Snowmass Village will sign on to the program, where much of the construction currently occurs.
Aspen/Snowmass Ears Third in Magazine Rankings
Aspen Skiing Co.’s four ski areas were collectively ranked third best in the West for a second straight year by readers of SKI Magazine, the Aspen Daily News reported. “The four mountains that make up Aspen Snowmass are the gold standard for American skiing. Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass each have their own character, which is why most skiers visit a different mountain each day of their visit,” the article said.
Along with its terrain variety, Aspen-Snowmass was touted for its uncrowded conditions. Ironically, given the shout-out for uncrowded conditions, one of the perceived “weaknesses” in SKI’s survey was access along with value. Sun Valley got top billing in the rankings, keeping the position it earned last year. And Deer Valley kept the second spot.
Pitkin County’s Budget Starts to Recoil
Inflation and a souring national economy convinced Pitkin County staff officials to budget conservatively for 2023 but advise the commissioners to dip into historically large reserves to fund priorities and retain employees, the Aspen Daily News reported. County officials project that sales tax revenues will fall 11% next year compared to 2022’s level. That represents a $1.85 million decrease for core services from the 2022 projection.
The county made conservative revenue projections in 2020 and 2021, in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and suspected implications for the economy. However, after the initial lockdown in 2020, people traveled and the Aspen-area economy boomed. Sales tax revenues soared in both 2020 and 2021. The county thought the bubble had burst and budgeted for a 4.2% decrease in 2022, but this year also defied projections. Sales tax revenues are up 13% thus far.
Fees Coming to White River National Forest Overnight Use
Overnight visitors heading into certain high-use areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness will have to make a reservation and pay a $10 fee per night starting in 2023, the Aspen Daily News reported. The permit system will apply to the popular Four Pass Loop backpacking route, which includes Snowmass Lake, as well as Geneva Lake and Capitol Lake. A reservation and permit system was implemented in 2018 for the area around Conundrum Hot Springs — now the $10 per night fee will be attached to Conundrum. The permits and quotas are needed to deal with the growing numbers of visitors and the resulting impacts — unburied human waste, garbage, trampled vegetation and compacted soil.