Short-Term Rental Tax Question Going to the Voters
Aspen City Council approved a resolution at a special meeting that will send a short-term rental tax question to voters this November, the Aspen Daily News reported. Basics of the ballot language have been decided, but questions such as the tax rates and which types of STRs would pay which rates need to be finalized. Staff recommended a 5.4% tax for lodging-exempt and owner-occupied STRs and a 10% tax for classic STRs.
Staff estimated that the tax would bring in $9.1 million in 2024. The resolution would set the tax to go into effect on May 1, 2023, if approved by voters. Under the tax, lodging-exempt and owner-occupied STRs would levy an additional 5% tax on the cost of a nightly stay, and classic STRs would levy an additional 10%. The council also supported splitting the tax so that 70% of the collected revenue would be dedicated to affordable housing, while the remaining 30% would go toward environmental and infrastructure repair and maintenance needs.
JAS Center Gets Approvals from Council
City council granted the necessary approvals and entitlements for the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Center to move forward in securing a construction permit in the next couple of months, the Aspen Daily News reported. The center will serve as a single home for four purposes: a club, an event space, a studio and a classroom. There will be a full-functioning kitchen, so either third-party, collaborating nonprofits looking to rent the space for an event space.
The JAS Center will have its entrance in the Red Onion annex building, east of the historic tavern on the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall. The first-floor space will house a gallery showcasing photos of JAS performances over the years. Second-floor space in the historic Red Onion building that currently contains offices will be converted into an entrance lobby, bar and lounge area of the 1892 building.
Permanent Theatre Aspen Structure Receives Initial Nod
In a joint work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Open Space and Trails Board, the Aspen City Council supported moving forward with a proposal from Theatre Aspen to replace its current theater facility with a permanent, subgrade facility in Rio Grande Park, the Aspen Daily News reported. The new facility would be significantly larger than the existing structure, and would include full utilities and be viable for year-round use. The facility would also be covered by a “green roof,” which would extend the Rio Grande Park. The project would triple the facility’s space, but put most of it underground. It would be funded entirely by the nonprofit, which leases the land on which it currently sits from the city for $1 per year.
Tax Income Up in 2022, So Far
Lodges, restaurants, and retailers in Snowmass Village reported 44.2% more in taxable sales for the first six months of 2022 than they did in the first half of 2021, reported by the Aspen Daily News. The town’s 3.5% sales tax produced $6.9 million in revenue from January through June, with nearly $2 million of that amount going to the general fund and $4.9 million to marketing.
This year’s first six months of sales tax collections didn’t only dwarf the town’s first half haul of $4.4 million in 2021, but also the first halves of 2020 and the pre-pandemic years of 2017, 2018 and 2019, according to the report. The nearly $7 million in collections from January to June this year came close to the year-end totals from the previous five years.
Town Prepares for One of Its Largest Municipal Projects
Basalt is preparing one of its biggest municipal projects ever as the town council gave its approval to staff members and consultants to move forward with a proposed design, the Aspen Daily News reported. The project reimagines its downtown main street to be more pedestrian-friendly: Midland Avenue will be reconstructed from its intersection with Two Rivers Road down to the Basalt Barber Shop on the east end. Curb and gutter will be torn out so that the sidewalks and roadway are on the same level. Sidewalks will be widened. Landscaping and gardens will be expanded to separate pedestrians from traffic. Many angle parking spots in the downtown core will be converted to parallel spaces and utilities will be replaced.
The project is estimated to cost about $11.8 million. It was approved by voters in 2021; design plans are set to be finalized this year and construction will begin in 2023. Residents were adamant in not losing parking spots, and the current design proposal has 336 spaces with eight “flex” spots, which amounts to the same 344 that exist today.
Final Willits Project Receives Approval
Developer Michael Lipkin received approval from the Basalt Town Council to build the final piece of his massive mid-valley Willits project, the Aspen Daily News reported. The council granted final approval for 155 condominiums and apartments deep in the heart of the residential section of Willits. The project includes 109 free-market condominiums and 46 deed-restricted units. There will be 23 apartments with rent caps and 23 for-sale units aimed at “the missing middle” — households that make too much money to qualify for subsidized housing but not enough to compete on the free market.
Parcel 5 will be the last part of the residential section of Willits to be completed. Lipkin received approvals for the residential portion of the project in the late 1990s. Willits Town Center, which includes Whole Foods and the surrounding commercial area, was approved in December 2000 and is nearly 100% built out.
Jamie Abbott Named Director for Carbondale Arts
Jamie Abbott has been named the next executive director of Carbondale Arts, starting Oct. 1, the Aspen Daily News reported. She has a 25-year history in the region’s nonprofit sector, including 15 years at Aspen Words. Most recently, Abbott served as development director at Colorado Mountain College. She replaces Amy Kimberly, who has been instrumental to developing Carbondale’s arts and cultural industry.
Garfield County Housing Market Starts to Cool
The housing market spiked during the pandemic; now, data shows it’s finally starting to get to a manageable place, the Glenwood Springs Independent reported. As interest rates have risen multiple times since December, the market finally started to slow down in Garfield County. The median price for a single family home in Garfield County went from 28.8% over 2021 prices in May, to 23.3% over in June, and then to 3.2% below 2021 prices in July. Townhomes and condos went from 5% over 2021 prices in May and June to 24.1% over 2021 prices in July, according to the Colorado Association of Realtors.
Former Bank to Become Welcome Center
Colorado Mountain College is working to move into the old US Bank location on Grand Avenue with some help from Glenwood Springs, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. The vacant space on the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Grand Avenue will soon become the new welcome center for CMC and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.The conversion is estimated to cost $1.4 million, and the college is applying to receive $700,000 from the Federal Mineral Lease District grant, which they plan to match.
Aspen-to-Atlanta Flight Doubles Down this Winter
Starting Dec. 17, Delta Air Lines will have a second daily nonstop flight from Atlanta to Aspen, the Aspen Daily News reported. It gives Atlanta residents greater access to Aspen and opens global opportunities given Atlanta’s position as the top connecting airport in the world. It is estimated that on recent Delta trips to Aspen served by the once-a-day Atlanta flight, local travelers from the Atlanta area accounted for roughly 40% of total passengers aboard, an indication of the massive airport’s importance as a connection point.
Delta’s commitment to the second route between Atlanta and Aspen bolsters the typically robust ASE winter schedule, adding another 107 inbound (and outbound) flights to the overall mix for the 2022-23 ski season. During the holiday peak, Dec. 17 to Jan. 4, the three commercial airlines serving the local market — Delta, United, American — will offer 35-36 daily flights, down slightly, by one flight, from the last December-January holiday season.
Independence Pass Stoplights Could Become Permanent
The two stop lights controlling traffic in the Narrows sections of Independence Pass could become permanent fixtures, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, reported by the Aspen Daily News. The lights were installed on the Pitkin County road’s two narrowest stretches last summer to avoid congestion that built up when I-70 was closed, and Highway 82 was used as an alternate route. One direction of traffic is stopped while traffic moving the other direction has a green light to proceed through the Narrows. The lights were praised by some PitCo commissioners for helping to alleviate traffic, but local residents have bemoaned the backups and experience they’ve created in a wilderness area.
New Mountain Bike Trail Increases Safety
Work has started on a new trail that will provide better access to Sky Mountain Park from Aspen and reduce the chances of collisions for mountain bikers, the Aspen Daily News reported. The existing Airline Trail will be dedicated as a downhill-only route while a new trail will be designated for climbing. The new trail will create a convenient loop for cyclists climbing to Skyline. A smaller loop will be possible by hopping off the climbing trail and onto the downhill trail about one-third of the way up the slope.