Aspen’s Lift One plan squeaks to victory by 26 votes
The Aspen Times
The proponents of the Lift One proposal needed every bit of a well-funded and well-oiled campaign effort to squeak out a victory in Tuesday’s election.
The Lift One corridor plan was approved 1,555 in favor to 1,529 against or a margin of 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.
“Actually, I said all along I’d be happy with 50.1 to 49.9. It looks like we got there,” said Jim DeFrancia, president of Lowe Enterprises, which is a partner in the Gorsuch Haus, a hotel that is part of the plan. “I liken it to a football game. You can win by seven touchdowns or one point. Either way, you’re in the win column.”
Campaign finance reports filed with the city of Aspen showed the Lift One proponents spent about $283,000 while opponents had spent about $15,000 as of the most recent report.
“I’m crushed,” said John Doyle, a leading opponent of the project. “I knew it was going to be close.
Although the victory margin was slim, it wasn’t close enough to trigger an automatic recount.
“Based on current calculations, there would be no automatic recount,” said city attorney Jim True.
Aspen residents were asked to vote on a proposal crafted in negotiations between the developers of a lodge and a hotel, Aspen Skiing Co. and representatives of the city government. One of the drivers of the plan was bringing the replacement for Lift 1A down the mountain another 500 feet rom its current lower terminal location to Dean Street.
The Lift One corridor plan encompasses more than 320,000 square feet of commercial space, which includes the 107,000-square-foot timeshare project known as the Lift One Lodge and a 64,000-square-foot luxury hotel called the Gorsuch Haus.
Lift One Lodge will add 34 fractional interest and six full-interest condominiums at the base. Gorsuch Haus will add 81 rooms.
Mixed in and around the tourist accommodations are bars and restaurants, skiers’ services, an underground parking garage and a ski museum.
Both sides agreed Tuesday night that making the bottom terminal of the chairlift was a key to the vote.
“It was the bright, shiny object that got everybody distracted,” Doyle said.
Opponents of the project were concerned about the traffic it will generate, the lack of affordable housing construction required of the developers, the city’s contribution of $4.36 million, the mass of the project and the effects on the Norway ski trail.
Proponents touted the revitalization of the original base area of Aspen Mountain with hot beds, cold beers, restaurants and a more accessible ski lift.
Jeff Gorsuch, a principal in the Gorsuch Haus, thanked about 100 supporters at an election night party.
“Tonight it’s about 26 people that made the difference but the story tomorrow will be about a community that comes together with varying viewpoints,” Gorsuch told the crowd. “You respect people and move forward.”
Michael Brown, a partner in the Lift One Lodge, said he wasn’t surprised by the close outcome.
“We probably flipped three or four votes today at 4 o’clock at the Jerome,” he said. He estimated that the Lift One team contacted up to 1,000 people on Election Day alone through emails and door-to-door contact.
“Obviously the lift coming down is the linchpin that we all rallied behind,” Brown said. He felt the collaboration between the developers, city, Skico and other players also resonated with voters.
He said he understood the opposition to some degree. Aspen residents are passionate about protecting the community. Brown said the redeveloped base will be a project that makes the community proud.
“This is really going to be something special for the community,” Brown said. “I very much look at this as a community sport and people will come to realize that.”
DeFrancia echoed the sentiment. “I respect those that opposed it. They had their reasons and it’s the way democracy works,” he said. “I want to assure them as well as our supporters that we are going to do a good job. They’ll be proud of what we do and when we finish they’ll look at it and say I’m glad it turned out this way.”
Doyle said he was pleased that the vote was as close as it was, though obviously disappointed by the loss.
“It showed this is a divisive issue,” Doyle said. He hopes that the debate continues based on the close outcome.
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