Unfinished building in Base Village, foreground, and the Snowmass Center, background.
Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Related Colorado, the master developer of Base Village, received preliminary approval for a four-year extension of its vesting rights Monday night by a divided Snowmass Village Town Council whose divergent opinions were reflective of a community still harboring apprehension about the decade-old project that’s poised for a restart.

Mayor Bill Boineau and council members Fred Kucker and Markey Butler provided the yes votes while Jason Haber and Chris Jacobson voted against granting the vesting extension beyond its Nov. 3, 2014, expiration date. 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 the new town requirements.

Council will discuss the issue again during a second reading in two weeks.

The economic impact of the decision is significant, Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado, has said, noting that the current mitigation rate for housing could potentially add tens of millions of dollars to the tab. Having vesting in place also provides confidence for investors and project partners.

“There’s a certain level of confidence they can rely on that the rules of the game don’t change,” Romero said.

Two different concerns recently signed letters of intent to invest in the stalled base-area project. Sunrise Co. and Oaktree Capital Management would like to develop 44 residential units in three of the partially completed buildings along Wood Road.

And in August, Aspen Skiing Co. announced its intention to develop a 102-room Limelight hotel near the Elk Camp Gondola.

Nearly two-dozen “milestones,” or incentives that carry penalties if they are missed, were offered as inducements by the developer in exchange for the vesting extension. If all were met, the developer would receive an additional year of vesting, extending those rights to 2019.

Those include submission of a comprehensive plan by Oct. 15 that details the way forward for most of the project, a firm start date for construction of a planned traffic roundabout and financial guarantees of up to $1 million if the second Viceroy hotel building is not completed on schedule.

Even with a mid-October submission, it could be a push to complete the comprehensive review in time to allow for the projects to begin by the spring construction season. Romero originally asked for a year’s leeway if a project was bumped but settled for “extending it to the next logical construction window,” he said.

Base Village faux building

Reverse order

There has been a growing voice in the community to hold off on granting the vesting extension until after the developer submits the application spelling out how the rest of Base Village will be completed.

Councilman Haber has favored seeing a complete application before the vesting topic was undertaken. Haber suggested that the town “get the application, evaluate it on its merits and extend the vesting on approval.” He and Jacobson argued unsuccessfully that this was a favored framework before the town “grants a significant approval.”

Locals seem to have no shortage of opinions on how the build-out schedule should look, with the fake front buildings on Wood Road right at the front of the line.

Citizen Walter Hanselmann, a 40-year local resident whose voice has not been heard previously on this subject, said Monday, “I urge town council not to give a blank check to the developer.”

Representing the views of the Woodrun Five Community Association, general manager Wayne Ethridge said the HOA “has no objection to a short extension of vested rights, up to three years, as long as the vesting is a condition of completion of buildings 7 and 8, the roundabout and improvements to Wood Road.”

“The trail leading to Base Village is littered with broken promises,” Ethridge said on behalf of association president James Dubin.

Arnie Mordkin, speaking as a citizen, emphasized that the community cares more about the undone buildings along Wood Road than the completion of the second Viceroy building.

“I would ask this council to stand up for the community,” he said.

Mordkin added that he approached two Related Colorado representatives after the Aug. 18 meeting to talk about his ideas on vesting. He said the developers felt they had the votes needed for the vesting extension. They were right.

The Snowmass Village Town Council will take further public comment during its Sept. 22 meeting, when second reading of the vesting extension ordinance will be considered.

Editors note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of local governments, including Snowmass Village. The Daily News published this story on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. Follow reporter Madeleine Osberger on Twitter, @Madski99.