TELLURIDE – The Telluride Town Council did not specifically state that it would support an informal proposal that envisions the 18-room Aspen Street Inn (formerly the San Sophia Inn) as a 30-room condominium/hotel, but at the same time it did not signal overwhelming opposition to the idea when it met with agents of the property owner on Tuesday.
The direction suggests a growing consensus among council that the community needs a stronger tourism infrastructure than currently exists for its own economic viability.
“There was support for building a greater hotbed base in Telluride by the council,” said Mayor Stu Fraser, summarizing the discussion.
“We’re not saying that particular project was the answer, but we are in support of more bed base and should put systems in place that enable that to happen.”
The conversation, held at the request of the property owner, South Aspen, LLC as represented by local developer Dirk DePagter and attorney Tom Kennedy, was held to gauge council’s willingness to consider a 10-foot height variance in the Residential/Commercial Zone District in which the property – at the corner of South Aspen Street and West Pacific Avenue – is located. DePagter emphasized that this is still very much a hypothetical project.
The R/C Zone District height limitation is 25 feet, and the owner, should he decide to pursue the condo/hotel, would be seeking an additional 10 feet as allowed in the neighboring Accommodations Two Zone District, to allow for the development of a critical mass of hotel rooms.
“If the economics are improved and the land use is amended to the point where we can come back with a hotbed project, we would consider it,” DePagter explained.
Council actually planted the seeds of the conversation one year ago. At that time it called up four development applications for review that had been approved by the Historic and Architectural Review Commission. One allowed for the demolition of the 1980s era San Sophia (Aspen Street) Inn, while the remaining approvals allowed for its replacement with three new duplex condominiums.
Council ultimately remanded the applications back to the lower board with concerns about the loss of hotbeds and direction for additional design refinements.
While the ownership group expects that final HARC approvals of the duplex applications will be forthcoming, it returned to council with the larger condo/hotel idea, “at the request of council and because we philosophically agree that the town needs to have more hotbeds,” DePagter explained.
“If we can make the economics work, why not? It’s for the betterment of the community.”
Still, before more money is invested seeking approval for the condo/hotel – if that is the direction the owner decides to pursue – the group would like to know it’s not fighting a losing battle.
“If you allow us this type of critical mass we would consider it, but we’re not going to run up against a brick wall. We’ve done that too many times already,” DePagter explained. “We want buy in from the community and council.”
Had council indicated an unwillingness to consider a variance, the discussion would have ended there.
“I heard them tell us we have some homework to do to see if that’s the site that we want to have this on, and if it fits in that treatment area from a historic perspective,” DePagter said at the end of the meeting. “It’s a question for the whole community,” he added.
In the meantime the group plans to proceed with finalizing its duplex designs and will operate the Aspen Street Inn as is until the economics can support a viable alternative.