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May 30, 2014
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No more aqua center in Snowmass Base Village?

During a packed meeting of residents and stakeholders at Snowmass Village Town Hall on Thursday, several novel ideas for Base Village amenities surfaced, ranging from indoor skydiving to a movie theater to a multi-use performing-arts center.

The meeting, the second in a series of public sessions on the stalled development, followed a roundtable discussion format, in which attendees talked about four different topics for 15 minutes each. Facilitators took notes and reported on each group’s responses to the topics in the second half of the meeting.

While the discussion on amenities might have produced the most new ideas, participants also talked about how they felt about extending vesting rights for Related Colorado, which owns Base Village through a subsidiary; whether the mix of commercial and residential space should change from the original project approvals; and how parking and transportation could be improved.

Community purposes and aquatic center

The first question posed by facilitators on this subject was whether an aquatic center in Base Village would still be beneficial to the community and, if not, what other amenities could be proposed.

Most participants felt that the aquatic center, originally intended to benefit the community primarily and not hotel and lodge guests, is no longer necessary because the Snowmass Village Recreation Center offers two pools and a hot tub for public use and rarely reaches capacity. The rec center did not exist a decade ago, when Base Village was approved.

However, attendees also said that Base Village needs some kind of facility that would similarly provide activities for people, especially young children, encouraging them to stick around after skiing.

“(There’s a) sore lack of that sort of activity,” said Beth Albert, who works for Snowmass Tourism but was speaking for herself. “You need something to do.”

Suggestions included a new home for the Ice Age Discovery Center, an ice-skating rink that could double as a miniature golf course in the summer, a performing-arts center, a movie theater and even a simulated skydiving facility similar to one in Ogden, Utah. The idea of a conference center also came up because some attendees noted that meeting space in Snowmass Village is limited, but even they felt that creating vitality was more important.

Phasing and vesting

In this session, attendees discussed whether the Town Council should extend the Base Village development rights beyond the Nov. 4 deadline by which its owner was supposed to have completed much more than is now finished. They also discussed what kind of requirements Related should have to meet in order to continue to keep its vesting rights.

Not every attendee was willing to say definitively that the council should grant the extension. Some wanted to understand better what would happen if it were denied.

If the vesting rights expire, that could expose Base Village to changes in town zoning policy, which there have been some of since its original approval, said Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado, to one group. Without vesting, “nothing happens,” he said.

“There’s no certainty to protect the investment,” Romero said.

Some attendees thought that Related should have more motivation to meet future deadlines for development rights.

“I feel like Related has us over a barrel,” said Jay Israel, a Snowmass Village businessman speaking for himself.

Others pointed out that Related wants to see the project finished, too, and that instead of an attitude of penalizing the developer, the town and others should work with it to finish Base Village.

Residential and commercial mix revisions

Residents and stakeholders discussed what kind of combination of lodging and other spaces should be added to Base Village, which currently is approved to house 610 residential units.

Most participants agreed that fractional condos or “vacation club” timeshares generate higher occupancy and that that would more greatly benefit Snowmass Village’s economy throughout the year. They also felt that town approvals for the project should remain flexible on the mix in case market demand changes, said Town Planner Jim Wahlstrom, who took notes on the topic.

Transportation

Currently, the Base Village developer is required to provide a ratio of 0.75 parking spaces for every residential unit built, but Related is proposing reducing that ratio to 0.5-to-1.

Participants didn’t land on a hard answer to that proposal, although they did talk about how the community could encourage visitors to use the Village Shuttle and other public transportation options more. They also covered how Base Village could provide better access to the mountain for drivers and that the “welcome center is not very welcoming,” said Community Development Director Julie Ann Woods, who facilitated the discussion.

“If you park in the garage and you intend to ski, you’ve got a very long walk,” said John Borthwick, of Snowmass Village. “I’ve been on the plaza many days as an ambassador and just watched people struggle.”

Councilman Jason Haber called the bus area in Base Village a “cave.”

“It’s just a depressing, confusing place to arrive,” he said.

After each facilitator reported on the results of the discussions, the three council members in attendance thanked everyone for coming and gave their reactions to the ideas presented. Haber said he didn’t think the session provided straightforward answers to questions surrounding the development but at least put “questions in these guys’ (Related’s) heads that they need to answer.”

“The overreaching comments that I heard were, A, get it done, ... and B, keep Base Village as vital as possible,” said Jim Gustafson, a member of the Planning Commission. “I’m more intrigued as I hear more about ... the vacation-club concept.”

A date and time for the final meeting in the series has not been set but is expected in the next two weeks.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jun 3, 2014 01:15PM Published May 30, 2014 01:57PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.