Groups and events involving fewer than 750 people can now use the lawn at the base of Fanny Hill without applying for a temporary-use permit or paying the related fees.
The Snowmass Village Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a special-review application setting parameters for that use, which Snowmass Tourism will manage. Events can occur on the lawn from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with amplified music and stage lighting allowed between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
The event lawn, located to the east of the base of the Village Express chairlift on Fanny Hill, was built over the past year with Aspen Skiing Co. permission and funded by Snowmass Tourism dollars.
The goal of the special-review permit is to make the lawn — and Base Village as a whole — more attractive to events such as business conferences, weddings, trade shows and athletic groups, said Fred Brodsky, group sales director and interim head of Snowmass Tourism.
“We want to make it easier for people to do business with us,” Brodsky said.
Most of the events that will be covered under the permit will be small, while larger ones such as this summer’s Wanderlust and Tough Mudder would still go through the permitting process, Brodsky said.
Commissioner David Rachofsky asked Brodsky about Snowmass Tourism’s relationship to the permit, given that at some events, like weddings, the town marketing department wouldn’t be the organizer.
The parameters set in the permit would be described in contracts with clients, Brodsky said. The lawn, which Snowmass Tourism is authorized to use only during non-winter months, is free for the community to use during that time.
“We’re kind of the calendar-keeper,” Brodsky said. “We also make sure they’re following the rules.”
The event lawn is included in a Base Village entertainment district, meaning that during approved times, patrons can carry alcoholic beverages from the four restaurants there throughout the plaza and lawn. Private parties not patronizing the restaurants wouldn’t require a liquor license anyway, said Town Attorney John Dresser, and in other instances a group can apply for a special-event permit with the Local Liquor Authority.
One concern neighbors had with the application was excessive lighting. Steve Harris, of Palo Alto, California, and an owner of two units in the Lichenhearth Condominiums, said there should be a restriction on the hours outdoor lighting can be used. Brodsky agreed to connect that to the limit on noise.
Rachofsky’s main concern remained handing the responsibility of determining use of the space over to Snowmass Tourism.
“The planning director’s job is to balance the needs of the residents and visitors to this community with the need for a vibrant economic relationship,” Rachofsky said. “What we’ve got here is a situation where we’re basically transferring functions that should be the planning director’s to the Snowmass Tourism office … with their view of maximizing tourism to the village.”
He also compared waiving the application fee for special events to a clause in the lodging incentive the city of Aspen recently considered.
The events covered by the lawn permit could be as simple as a large family gathering, and people like that shouldn’t have to go through a review process and pay a large sum, Brodsky said.
“He’s also selling amenities, and that’s an amenity to guests,” said Commissioner Donna Aiken. “I don’t have a problem with this.”
There also should be a restriction on the number of events per week, Harris said. Commissioner Tom Goode responded that limiting that would be difficult given how short the summer season is.
“What’s the sense of even doing it if we have to limit it?” Goode said.
Brodsky added that it would be unlikely for his department to book events seven days a week or even every weekend. If demand for the amenity grows that much, a restriction to that effect could be added, he said.
Chairman Bob Sirkus suggested that the Planning Commission could review the permit and assess its success in one year before renewing it.
“If we try to provide the marketing department the greatest amount of breadth, the most flexibility in this first year, … hopefully we will come to find out that there aren’t problems,” Sirkus said. “I would suspect that we will find out all the problems.”
All activity, including tear-down, is required to be done by 11 p.m. Some lighting is allowed until that time, but it will have to comply with town code; stage lighting will be restricted to the hours between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.