Mel Blumenthal
Columnist
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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October 9, 2012
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Mel Blumenthal: As fall turns to winter, it's election season and Base Village starts to get sorted out

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - It's my final fall weekend in the Village and while writing this week's column, I'm savoring the view of the remaining golden aspen leaves just outside my window. It's been a gorgeous season of vibrant color change along with perfect biking and hiking conditions. If I played golf I'd probably add that to the list, but it's just too sedentary a sport for me and I have no interest at all in recounting all the fantasy golf tales that occupy the vast majority of most golfers' conversation.

In anticipation of our mid December return for ski season, I attended to a few pre-winter chores this past weekend: replaced my bike rack with ski tubes, stored the bike shoes, cleaned and aired out the ski boots and unpacked all the new ski wear and equipment bought on sale at the end of last ski season - I'm ready, so bring on the snow.

Although the Village will be pretty quiet for rest of the fall season, there are several local issues to keep your eyes focused on. It's very easy to do from wherever you are since all the local papers as well as our streamed and archived Town Council and Pitkin County Commissioners' meetings can be accessed via their respective websites.

Our local Town Council elections should not be overlooked amongst all the noise being generated at the national level. You should learn as much as you can about the four Council candidates for the two open seats. These two winners will likely be making decisions during the next four years that will impact all of our lives in the Village in many significant ways, particularly with respect to sustaining and growing our local resort economy as well as maintaining the lifestyle we've all chosen by deciding to reside here on a full or part-time basis.

Unfortunately three of the four candidates - Chris Jacobson, Darryl Grob and Stan Stokes - have not spent any time gaining valuable local experience in our complicated land-use code and processes or the Town's economic and marketing issues. Most successful local candidates in recent years have volunteered for tours of duty on the Planning Commission and Financial Advisory Board, gaining valuable knowledge and experience for the job of setting Town policy and decision making when they're seated on the Council.

Since none of these three candidates have done so, not even on the Marketing and Group Sales Board, we must thus look to their other qualifications to determine whether and how quickly they can get up to speed on the intricacies of such complex issues as the completion of Base Village, the upgrading and revitalization of the Mall and Snowmass Center, Town budgeting processes, employee housing and the marketing of Snowmass Village.

Make an effort to hear them out, including the single incumbent running for one of the two open seats, Markey Butler, and make an educated decision on the best of the lot. It's important since they'll be representing all of us for the next four years in making critical decisions concerning the future of our fair Village.

Although Related has finally closed on its reacquisition of Base Village, we don't have a clue as to their completion plan other than putting a pedestrian doorway in the front of the so-called reception center, reselling the Viceroy hotel units as condos, selling the unsold condos in the Hayden and Capital Peak lodges and completing the second phase of the Viceroy Hotel.

The marketing and sale of existing units and units still to be built will in my estimation require a deep slash in the per foot sales price of these units and a dramatic restructuring of all the ongoing costs that Base Village residential property owners are responsible for that none of the rest of us incurs.

As set up by Skico when they originally developed the plans for Base Village, they laid off all the Base Village infrastructure and ongoing operational costs on the Base Village property owners so that Skico could walk away free and clear of these costs. That was good for Skico, which quickly sold out to Related and pocketed most of the $169 million sales price as profit. It was and still remains good for Related, who succeeded to Skico's deal, but not so good for the existing Base Village residential property owners and all the new prospects, which Related will soon begin marketing to.

The difference between now and when Related first started marketing and selling residential units prior to the recession is that the dirty little secret of all the buyer's hidden costs via exorbitant HOA fees, Improvement District assessments, Bond Issue principal and interest payments, and double Real Estate Transfer Taxes, which the rest of us don't pay, are now out in the open so that new potential buyers will be in a much better position to make a well informed decision. During these tough economic times when the buyer is king, it's unlikely they'll agree to pay significantly higher ongoing costs in order to subsidize our and our guests use of Base Village.

The laws of economics tell me that Related is going to have give up a lot of the good deal they inherited from Skico and pick up a big share of the Base Village capital, operating and maintenance cost since it's unlikely that the taxpayers of Snowmass will voluntarily agree to take on any portion of these obligations and any new buyers would have to be crazy to do so.

That should be one of the earliest decisions made by Related now that they're back in charge.

Although I'll be commenting from Santa Monica for the rest of the fall you can reach me at secondview@earthlink.net.


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The Aspen Times Updated Oct 9, 2012 03:33PM Published Oct 9, 2012 03:31PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.