October 22, 2014

Snowmass ex-parte party

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Snowmass town hall
There is tension in Snowmass Village town hall, background, over completing the Base Village project, foreground.

Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

There is tension in Snowmass Village town hall, background, over completing the Base Village project, foreground.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Turnabout is fair play and at Monday night’s regular meeting of the Snowmass Village Town Council, Fred Kucker dropped a political bombshell intended to resonate as loudly as the one levied Oct. 6 by fellow board member Chris Jacobson.

Speaking during council updates, Kucker accused Jacobson of having an “extended conversation” with Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan.

“Such a conversation would, undoubtedly, fall into the same category as any conversations Markey or I might have had,” Kucker said. “I’m sure that particular conversation just slipped Mr. Jacobson’s mind.”

Earlier this month, Jacobson accused council members Markey Butler and Kucker of engaging in substantive conversations outside of the public forum with regard to Base Village negotiations. He also accused Mayor Bill Boineau of tampering with the council packet before it was published in order to get some insertions removed.

The allegations were made at the same meeting the Town Council voted, 3-2, to extend Related’s vesting rights on the Base Village project by four years. By retaining the vesting attached to the project’s original 2004 approval, the developer will have to provide fewer employee housing units and parking than if it were subjected to new town requirements.

Butler, Kucker and Boineau voted in favor of the extension while Jacobson and councilman Jason Haber were the minority opposition votes.

SkiCo is not the primary applicant of Base Village, but has entered into negotiations with master developer Related Colorado to purchase a parcel of land for the Limelight Hotel, 18 free-market condominiums and limited retail.

Butler detailed her version of the conversation, which was with a SkiCo representative but not the primary applicant, in both an Aspen Daily News article and at the Aspen Journalism-sponsored Snowmass Village Candidates Forum on Oct. 16.

Butler said she called SkiCo vice president Don Schuster for “clarification” about the Limelight application and within the conversation asked if something could be done to “accelerate” the project’s timing.

During the candidates’ forum, and under direct questioning from Snowmass Sun editor Jill Beathard, Boineau explained how he had unsuccessfully attempted to remove information from the packet.

Mayor Bill Boineau, center, flanked by council members Jason Haber and Markey Butler, left and Chris Jacobson and Fred Kucker, right, opens an Oct. 6, 2014 meeting to public discussion on the minor PUD amendment and vesting rights of Base Village.

Jordan Curet / Aspen Daily News

Mayor Bill Boineau, center, flanked by council members Jason Haber and Markey Butler, left and Chris Jacobson and Fred Kucker, right, opens an Oct. 6, 2014 meeting to public discussion on the minor PUD amendment and vesting rights of Base Village.

Accuser becomes the accused

At the end of Monday’s meeting, it was Jacobson’s turn to do some explaining. He appeared as surprised by the turn of events as his fellow council members were earlier this month when he was cast in the role of accuser.

Jacobson, who is personal friends with Kaplan, explained his alleged ex-parte conversation with the head of SkiCo.

“If there was a comment at the end of the summer, it might have been about [SkiCo] reigniting the conversation,” he said. “We also talked about a party that my wife had and we talked about my dad’s stroke. I said I couldn’t discuss the details of the application.”

Kaplan “may have said they were starting something,” but Jacobson said he found that unlikely.

“Mike is incredibly disciplined, he’s not going to put himself or me in jeopardy by having a substantive conversation,” Jacobson said.

Later, Jacobson recalled a conversation he had with Kaplan last spring, when SkiCo initially withdrew its Limelight application. Again, Jacobson claimed to have told the SkiCo executive, “I can’t talk about this.”

Kucker painted a far less ethical portrait of his rival during his comments.

“I believe Mr. Jacobson has a means and ends problem,” Kucker said. “He has continuously demonstrated he will use any means, fair or foul, to accomplish any end, right or wrong.”

Among Jacobson’s means, Kucker said, was an attempt to elicit a recusal prior to the vote on vesting rights for Related Colorado.

“Mr. Jacobson knew that the vote would be 3-2 in favor of extending the vested rights,” Kucker said. “That is why he made his allegations.”

Jacobson’s allegations have taken on additional weight during this campaign season as both Butler and Boineau are running for open seats. If the allegations are determined to be in violation of town code, they could potentially derail the vesting rights extension that in turn could delay the base area development project.

Under Colorado Rule 106 (a)(4), a citizen may ask a judge to review the vesting rights vote if there’s believed to be substantive ex-parte communication.

Jacobson said if he personally violated the town code, (section 2-94 deals with ex-parte communication), “Perhaps that’s all the more reason that someone should sue the town and make sure that everything is clear.”

Richard Goodwin of Snowmass Village already has indicated he’s interested in asking for a Rule 106 review by a judge.

Goodwin is a frequent critic of Base Village, most particularly the fees it levies within its metropolitan district, where he owns a condominium. He also is the owner of a single-family home on the golf course.

Goodwin is backing candidate Haber for mayor and contributed $1,000 to his campaign, according to the first of three campaign finance reports that will be filed this election season.

On Monday night, Kucker used his final comments as an elected official to endorse Butler for mayor and cast Haber as “two peas in a pod” with Jacobson.

“They have voted together on virtually every issue that has come before this council,” Kucker said. “Their goals are the same,” which he said include “forestalling the orderly development of Base Village,” making Snowmass “the greenest town in the world, regardless of cost of cost benefit” and either moving the rodeo out of the entryway or having it completely go away.

Kucker ended his tenure with dramatic flair. At the conclusion of the comments, he stepped away from the council table and declared, “With that I bid you a fond farewell.”

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Aspen Daily News on coverage of local governments. The Daily News published this story on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Follow Madeleine Osberger on Twitter, @Madski99.

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