June 1, 2014

Simple questions about Base Village will require more complex answers

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SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The questions posed to the public about Base Village were deceptively simple: Do you favor converting wholly owned condos to fractional units? Should the residential parking requirements be reduced? Is there a better community amenity than an aqua center? And should the project’s vesting rights be extended beyond November?

But the answers — and the potential long-term ramifications to Snowmass Village — are anything but simple, Snowmass Village Town Councilman Jason Haber told the capacity crowd that turned out Thursday for the second meeting between Base Village developer Related Colorado, elected officials and community members. About 50 people attended the meeting in Town Hall.

“We are raising the questions that are going to help us answer those questions,” Haber said. “I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation.”

Four small group discussions, 15 minutes each in length, allowed attendees to chime in with comments on everything from impacts and opportunities the new Base Village proposal brings to Snowmass Village to whether or not the concepts support the long-term community aspiration of a vital, multi-season resort.

Moderator Tom Newland said he observed “A lot of active conversation and a lot of good input” during the meeting.

There was a surprising amount of consensus in the room on the topic of changing up the unit mix to allow more timeshare and fractional ownership products. The majority of the public felt it was “basically a good idea,” said the town’s planning director Jim Wahlstrom, who helped moderate the session that focused on residential and commercial mix.

“This concept provides different price points for different people and expands (the market) for who can own,” said Bob Sirkus, chair of the Snowmass Planning Commission. Sirkus added that an economic feasibility study is much desired before a decision on unit mix is made.

An aqua center for Base Village was included within the original approval as a community amenity. But the construction of the Snowmass Recreation Center seems to have filled that need, as not one person in attendance on Thursday supported that as a priority. Instead, an alpine slide received enthusiastic support from locals, including Steve Parmelee and Brian Wexler.

“After 21 years of living here, I’ve always wanted the opportunity to say those two words, ‘alpine slide,’” Wexler joked.

Former Snowmass Village mayor T. Michael Manchester said, “I probably would be looking for some way to create excitement in that space,” since that’s the use originally intended for the aqua center parcel. Manchester also isn’t opposed to leaving the space, located in the heart of Base Village, un-built.

Wayne Ethridge, general manager of Wood Run V, favors an outdoor theatre or something that can provide “a sense of whimsy. Everything is so serious” in this urban-like area, he said.

But Ethridge himself raised a serious point when he said, “We didn’t hear much about what the community needs” at Thursday’s gathering.

He said he believes repairs to Wood Road and the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Brush Creek and Wood roads, which in the original schedule was targeted for completion more than five years ago, should top that list.

Parking and transportation

On the wish list for Related Colorado is reducing the amount of required residential parking by a quarter of what they are required currently. Shawn Gleason, vice president of finance for Related Colorado, said a study conducted of the Viceroy garage during the last Christmas season supported the reduction. Very few spaces were used over that time period.

Yet several people in one of the breakout groups said the winter guest — many who fly in — is far different from the car-dependent summer guest. Village resident Kristin Balko spoke of her own experience in trying to find a spot in the public parking garage, which was at capacity during spring break.

“We definitely have a parking issue at peak times,” Balko said.

It became clear that this is one of the issues that can’t be looked at in a vacuum; if parking is reduced then maybe other transportation options need to be explored.

“I would love to see a village that evolves with less parking, more transportation and more conveniences,” said local resident Brian Mordecai.

When the topic moved to vesting, there appeared to be support that the town should work with the developer to at least allow some extension of their development rights beyond Nov. 4.

“Yes, I think vesting can continue but the milestones have to be very specific,” said Ethridge, who suggested that completion of buildings 7 and 8 (the two faux front structures on Wood Road) within the next three years would be an appropriate way for the developer to receive an additional two years of vesting.

Wexler said he agreed that vesting should continue, but with limits.

“I don’t like the open endedness of it,” he said.

A third meeting about the Base Village concepts will be scheduled in the coming weeks, said Snowmass Village Community Development Director Julie Ann Woods.

Related Colorado President Dwayne Romero said the questions raised and answers given during the two-hour session were valuable to their planning.

“Our ultimate goal is to achieve enough consensus” to move forward with the development application, he said.

Editor’s note: This story was done in collaboration with the Aspen Daily News, which published a version on Friday, May 30, 20214.

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