June 19, 2014

Snowmass locals agree Base Village must get moving again

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An illustration of the Base Village project. The darker-colored buildings on the right of the diagram are the completed buildings in the core of the village. The Viceroy hotel is the darker-colored Y-shaped building on the left. The illustration also shows the partially completed buildings and the yet-to-be started buildings. The black numbers are lot numbers. The owners of the project are contesting the values placed on the commercial property in the core of the village and the value of the Viceroy hotel. In all, the owners say the property should be valued at $94 million less than the county thinks it should be.

Oz Architecture

An illustration of the Base Village project. The darker-colored buildings on the right of the diagram are the completed buildings in the core of the village. The Viceroy hotel is the darker-colored Y-shaped building on the left. The illustration also shows the partially completed buildings and the yet-to-be started buildings. The black numbers are lot numbers. The owners of the project are contesting the values placed on the commercial property in the core of the village and the value of the Viceroy hotel. In all, the owners say the property should be valued at $94 million less than the county thinks it should be.

The Snowmass Elk Camp Gondola rises above the top of the Base Village parking garage. Aspen Skiing Co. is reviewing the opportunity to build a hotel on the site.

Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

The Snowmass Elk Camp Gondola rises above the top of the Base Village parking garage. Aspen Skiing Co. is reviewing the opportunity to build a hotel on the site.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Locals may disagree about what’s a proper community amenity for Base Village, the terms and trade-offs of a vesting extension or whether to reduce the number of parking spaces needed to support the resort community.

But one thing that the majority of people who participated in a series of non-binding meetings involving developer Related Colorado (operating as Snowmass Acquisition Company LLC for the current land-use application) and elected and appointed officials seem to agree upon is this: It’s time to restart the process so Base Village can get moving again.

And that will begin when Related Colorado submits a formal development application to the town, something that could happen as soon as mid-July, said Steve Alldredge, spokesman for the developer.

“We’ve had nothing to do for awhile, so send us an application,” Bob Sirkus, chairman of the Snowmass Planning Commission, said at Wednesday’s third and final pre-sketch plan meeting.

Once an application is in place, the town will have the opportunity to provide the groundwork for a potential so-called “Planned Unit Development” amendment process that could respond to community concerns about the project. But a submission also will mark the end of informal discussions between elected officials and the development team because at that time “everything becomes a quasi-judicial process,” said Town Manager Gary Suiter.

Base Village faux building

Buildings are an ‘eyesore’

Additional studies and analysis on the residential product mix, parking and transportation and what, if anything, should replace the proposed aqua center, will be needed in the future, elected officials and Related Colorado President Dwayne Romero agreed. The market and the world have changed dramatically since Base Village was approved a decade ago.

The majority also seem to agree that the developer’s vesting period — which is due to expire on Nov. 3, 2014 — should be extended.

“The vesting extension and the amount of support for moving forward was one of the big ‘ah-has’ for us,” Romero said.

Romero suggested that council could use “kill switches” if milestones, such as the roundabout construction, were not met.

That’s not enough of a guarantee for the community, suggested Snowmass Planning Commission member David Rachofsky.

“We need something more in terms of financial penalties,” he said.

Councilman Fred Kucker told Romero there needs to be a way “to keep your feet to the fire … I don’t want to see another half-built building. I’d like to see some guarantees.”

Snowmass Village resident Richard Goodwin concurred.

“These uncompleted buildings are an eyesore to this community,” he said. “The first thing Related ought to do is complete these buildings and take this eyesore away from us. Or these uncompleted buildings should be trashed.”

Romero said his company is “advancing business plans with potential partners for proposed new uses” of the faux front buildings along Wood Road that are part of what is known in development jargon as “Lot 3.” Those could include vacation club or fractional unit products.

In the original Base Village approval, a traffic circle at Brush Creek and Wood roads was tied to the completion of another Base Village phase. Elected officials were divided as to its timetable and urgency but one member of the public, Meri Butler, said it should be completed sooner rather than later.

“I want a roundabout and I want it now,” Butler said. “Going up and down [Wood Road] has been a challenge. I think it would be a safety feature. It would also be a symbol.”

While opinions may have varied among the public and government officials about myriad other details, Romero said the message he received over the course of the meetings demonstrates the time is right to submit a formal application that addresses the development’s future.

“We are comfortable, confident and we are compelled” to move forward, Romero said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborated on this story with the Aspen Daily News, which published the story on Thursday, June 19, 2014.

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