Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
SNOWMASS VILLAGE — How to get the stalled Base Village project moving? Allow time-share units and other fractional products to be developed in buildings that have sat dormant for years.
Construct a private mountain club in the second, still unbuilt, Viceroy hotel building and maybe add other amenities that would make the condo units in this “annex” more salable. Offer more diversified residential product that could appeal to buyers willing to spend anywhere from $50,000 to $10 million.
Speaking Tuesday in the first of three joint work sessions between Town Council, the Snowmass Planning Commission and Snowmass Acquisition Company LLC — the Related Colorado subsidiary that repurchased all of Base Village — Dwayne Romero outlined new concepts under consideration by the development team.
“We think there’s a great opportunity to further diversify the product type,” said Romero, president of Related Colorado.
What was more surprising than the concepts of “market and product segmentation” he outlined was the affirmation by Romero’s colleague, Andrew Dance, senior vice president for Related, that financing could soon be in hand from investors willing to support these vacation club products.
“The financing is there. We have it secured. When we have the security with the entitlements, we can move forward with the developments. The money is there,” Dance reiterated.
Where the smart money doesn’t seem to be these days is in developing more of the same tourist units that are already predominant in Base Village. Romero said of 243 completed residential units in the project, “90 residences are still available for sale today.” When developer-owned units are factored in, that number rises to 95 unsold units currently available.
Romero added that the 231 Snowmass Village condos now listed in the MLS (including the Viceroy units) represent 2.5 years worth of sales inventory for the town. Why flood the market with more of the same, he inferred.
“The recession knocked the bottom out. We’re still trying to recover from the hangover,” Romero said.
One of his antidotes is fractional ownership units, whose price point encourages greater occupancy in the resort.
Romero and Related received support from longtime local resident Curt Strand, a retired chairman and CEO of Hilton International. Strand suggested the Town Council adopt a more lenient approach in its dealings with this group.
“These developers should be given slack. … They will pick the time when they will build what they will sell,” Strand said.
Related’s Dance stressed that time was of the essence in this process, which is just now in the pre-sketch plan stage.
“We want to be able to get moving soon. We are not looking to be in the Base Village development in 20 years,” he said.
Dance added that the time-share operators willing to commit to investing in Base Village have already agreed to a rapid schedule where buildings could be constructed concurrently. The “time share campus” the developers envision encompasses buildings 7 and 8, which are the two faux front buildings along Wood Road, and building 6, which at one time was going to be used by Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
Snowmass Planning Commission chair Bob Sirkus pushed for some names of potential fractional project investors.
“We are still pretty much in the dark about who you were talking about. … I’m sure the entire community wants to know” who is being considered, Sirkus said. But Related’s reps remained mum. It’s also unclear at this time what approvals would need to be amended if this plan is deemed acceptable.
Snowmass Planning Commissioner Donna Aiken asked whether the developer would consider posting a performance bond to ensure the project wouldn’t start and stop again. Romero said given the scope of the plan, “that’s not something we can probably entertain.” He did say there are other performance “mechanisms” that could be explored.
The biggest opponent to the concept was Councilman Fred Kucker, who decried the dearth of real estate transfer tax, property tax and sales tax that’s earned from fractional projects.
“As a councilman for the town of Snowmass Village, I think that’s a terrible deal for us,” Kucker said.
Mayor Bill Boineau agreed that it’s time to dust off some of the economic analysis and fiscal models that have been conducted over the years “and have a discussion about how that will relate to the end game.”
Citizen Arnie Mordkin, who was on council when Base Village was first approved in 2004, said time-share projects were initially considered desirable in part because of a shining example seen with the Marriott Vacation Club in Utah. He said language within the Base Village approval left the door open to this kind of usage.
Mordkin also said some states have figured out how to tax time-share sales or revenue. He was also firm in Snowmass Village’s expectations for the developer.
“The devil is in the details. What this community wants to see is action. I think what we want to see is no more ‘trust me.’ We’re not interested in trusting anymore. We’ve been burned. We want to see some economic backing for the ‘trust me.’”
The next work session on Base Village is set for May 29 from 4-6 p.m. in council chambers. A third meeting date has not yet been announced.
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism’s Government Desk collaborated with the Aspen Daily News on this story. The News ran a version of this story on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.