Base Village lawn now a special events venue

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SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Increased liveliness in Base Village maybe be desirable for guests and some residents, but at what cost to the adjacent neighborhood?

On Wednesday, the Snowmass Planning Commission listened to the divergent needs of the resort community and ultimately agreed to eliminate the need for special use permits on the Base Village lawn. The board also voted unanimously to allow amplified music until 9 p.m.

“You’ve seen a summer here that’s a little different from summers past,” said Fred Brodsky, interim director for Snowmass Tourism. “We’ve had massive tax gains and we’re using our assets better”, he added.

One of those assets is the “campus” that’s created by the Viceroy hotel, the Base Village conference space and this grassy area near the bottom of the Village Express chairlift that was home to the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf concerts during July, Brodsky said.

The property is owned by Aspen Skiing Co. and available until early November, when SkiCo needs to retake it for access to the Village Express chairlift.

Brodsky and community development director Julie Ann Woods on Wednesday advocated that temporary use permits not be required for small concerts, athletic events, car shows, wedding parties and similar activities that attract fewer than 750 people to this piece of property. That means the town would also forego the $500 per event permit fee that has been required in the past.

Brodsky classified gatherings of this size on the lawn as “one-off events.” Larger events that draw more people would be “subject to greater scrutiny,” including a bonafide permit and additional oversight.

Noise that stretches late into the evening and ambient lighting that could impact the dark skies were the main issues brought up by Steve Harris, a part-time resident who owns a unit in the Lichenhearth.

“One of the real pleasures in Snowmass is looking at the sky,” said Harris of Palo Alto, Calif. He also pointed out the inherent conflict between condo owners who love the peace and quiet and a village that wants to grow.

Harris found a sympathetic ear in planning commissioner David Rachofsky.

“Fred’s job is to sell events and bring revenue into the village. It’s the planning director’s job to balance the needs of residents and visitors with the needs of the community for a vibrant economy,” Rachofsky said.

Rachofsky questioned whether the town should even be involved in managing the property. And said that removing the $500 special permit fee “costs the community something because it’s a foregone fee.”

Brodsky was able to convince the commissioners that the proposal should go forward.

“I think you’ve seen how the use of it this summer has contributed to our economic vitality,” he said.

Brodsky is not a fan of using the paved area in Base Village for events as he believes it’s too constrained by the fire lane. Nor does he like upper Fanny Hill that he said “in the summer is not a good looking piece of real estate. It’s not well kept.”

Commissioner Donna Aiken favored giving the idea a try. Snowmass Tourism “is not only selling rooms. They’re selling amenities. And that’s an amenity for guests,” she said.

Brodsky also attempted to assuage Harris’ concerns by assuring “there will not be massive flood light washing up the hill.”

There will be additional safeguards put in place as well. While Harris’ suggestion that the number of events on the Base Village lawn should be restricted each year went nowhere, the program’s success and potential problems will be reviewed after its first year.

As it stands, amplified sound on the parcel must stop at 9 p.m. and all activity on the parcel needs to be done by 11 p.m. While activity may begin as early as 7 a.m., only once this summer was the parcel used at that time in the morning, commissioners were told.

Lighting must comply with the town’s existing regulations. If a tent goes up on the property, then the fire department will have oversight. And should a problem arise with noise or lighting, police chief Brian Olson has the ability to pull the plug on the party.

“At the end of the day, if the community is outraged, we shut it down,” Brodsky said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Aspen Daily News of coverage of Snowmass Village and other local governments. The Daily News ran this story on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Follow reporter Madeleine Osberger on Twitter, @Madski99.

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