Mammoth’s Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) approved a tentative tract map, design review and a use permit for Phase One of the Limelight Hotel project to be located at the corner of Canyon and Lake Mary Roads next to the Westin Monache.
Phase One calls for the construction of a 151-room hotel along with 15 stand-alone condominiums on the 6.9 acre site.
The applicant is Aspen Skiing Co. and Limelight Mammoth LLC.
Limelight owns other ritzy hotel properties in Snowmass, Aspen and Ketchum, Idaho (Sun Valley).
PEDC Chairman Michael Vanderhurst said Limelight will provide what is now a “missing [elite] level” of lodging offering.
Three things stood out from the hearing.
One was Limelight’s professed desire to power its property with geothermal energy.
It plans to heat and electrify the joint by drilling down some 1,400-2,000 feet to tap into a geothermal energy source.
This has the Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD) a bit nervous.
As MCWD District Engineer Garrett Higerd said at Wednesday’s hearing, he considers Limelight’s geothermal aspirations to be a “mini-version” of Ormat’s CD-IV project.
As Higerd explained, Limelight would have to drill through an aquifer which supplies Town drinking water to reach the geothermal layer.
Inviting the possibility of a leak or contamination of the town’s water supply.
MCWD General Manager Mark Busby requested the PEDC delay a decision Wednesday in favor of further study of this project component.
“To lose water supply or a portion thereof would be catastrophic,” said Busby, noting that a key MCWD well (#17 – at the Woodsite) is located just 1,200’ away.
A second item of note was the volume of public comment. Apparently, owners at the Westin Monache are not terribly excited at the prospect of having a new neighbor – even if it’s a neighbor they’ll be able to look down upon.
16 owners made comment at the hearing.
Many are disappointed that their views will be affected.
And many were critical of Limelight plans to locate its HVAC system on the roof, which they would have to look upon and perhaps hear.
As owner Willie Liu said, he owns a 24th floor condo in Hawaii that looks down upon a flat-roofed building. He deems it very ugly.
Susan Hoffman said she owns several Westin units, including two adjacent units on the top floor. She whined about a possible impact to her property values.
Michelle Sullivan, who called herself a 40-year visitor, said the proposed Limelight hotel is “very ugly” and said the project is all about money and greed.
Heidi Vu is a new owner at what she called the Mo-nack-y. She said she’s now considering selling her unit because of the anticipated loss of trees and birds.
Steve Bernardo, president of the Westin homeowners’ association, sniffed that the Ritz Carlton drawings of years ago were “more elegant.”
The Town’s Community Development Director Sandra Moberly responded by saying the Town’s General Plan is very specific in its assertion that “we don’t protect private views.”
As to fears about noise issues emanting from the HVAC system, she said the project would be subject to the Town’s noise regulations.
A third item which was utterly glossed over without a follow-up question or observation was in regard to housing mitigation for the project.
Limelight has elected to pay an in-lieu fee versus building workforce housing on-site.
Based upon the current development impact fee (DIF) schedule, that in-lieu is estimated at $742,580 – enough to provide perhaps one unit of workforce housing for 151 hotel rooms and 15 stand-alone condos.
In its presentation, Limelight representative Andy Reed did say his company owns approximately 1,000 employee housing beds at its other locations, and has been awarded the Governor’s Citizenship Medal by the state of Colorado.
The project meets code and does not require variances.
It will build 179 understructure parking spots and will employ valets to operate it.
The PEDC voted 3-1 to approve. Pauil Chang was conflicted out. Greg Eckert voted no, citing “horrible precedent” in allowing the geothermal component to move forward. Because, he predicted, this won’t be a one-off. Over time, he said, other projects will also propose geothermal, and every time you drill an additional hole into the ground, you’ll invite risk.