Last minute requests put Limelight Snowmass in jeopardy once more
January 18, 2016
Once again, a sticking point in the review of a Snowmass Base Village application may push back construction of Aspen Skiing Co.'s proposed hotel there.
When the Snowmass Village Town Council started reviewing the final plan application for Base Village amendments last week, applicant Related Cos. came forward with some unexpected additional requests proffered by East West Partners, a Vail Valley-based developer currently negotiating to purchase Related's remaining Base Village assets.
Those requests included items such as pushing back the start of construction of the second phase of the Viceroy from this spring to 2019 or 2020, a change that rocked council members last week but one that they agreed to accept Monday. A request to raise the heights of most of the proposed buildings, in some cases by 1 or 2 feet and in the case of the Viceroy expansion by almost 6 feet, fell flat, however.
"I'd love to see some view-plane analysis," Mayor Markey Butler said. "There's so much we don't know, and here we are at the 11th hour."
The council offered to come to an agreement on buildings in the first phase of development and return to those on the east side of the project, the ones with the greater variances requested, through a different process. But Andy Gunion, representing East West, said the height variances, which were being requested to accommodate what the developer sees as minimum ceiling heights necessary for successfully selling residential units, were critical to the company signing a deal with Related.
"Unless we know with certainty these heights, we may not have a deal," Gunion said.
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That doesn't mean never — Gunion said East West could wait for Related to undergo a review process of those variances. The council and Related had been working to finish the final plan review process by Dec. 21 so that the next phase of construction could begin this spring, but with Viceroy II out of the picture, the next phase only includes Skico's hotel.
"From our perspective, the timing's not an issue," Gunion said. "You have other players and other considerations."
Skico is under contract to purchase a lot and build the Limelight Snowmass hotel there, contingent upon final approval on Related's application from the council. While the company hasn't given a clear statement on its commitment to the hotel now that a new Base Village owner has entered the picture, it has been adamant that it needed approval of the application by that Dec. 21 deadline to break ground on the building this spring.
"Without understanding certainty of whether that can happen, I don't think our company will go at risk" by purchasing materials, hiring contractors, etc. "to go forward in 2016," said Don Schuster, Skico vice president of hospitality development.
"I'm not willing to rush this through if Skico's not willing to go vertical," Butler said. "I'd rather do it right and make sure the community weighs in."
Most of the council was on the same page, but Councilman Bill Madsen felt differently.
"I guess when we're talking about 80- or 90-foot buildings, a foot or two really doesn't bother me that much," Madsen said, answering affirmatively when Butler asked if the 5-foot-10-inch additional height being requested for Viceroy II was acceptable, as well.
Madsen said he was most concerned with getting the community-purpose facilities, the Limelight and the new medical clinic done.
"To me those are the most important parts of this entire project," Madsen said.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the first reading of the application without adjusting the height variances. Whether it takes a vote on the second reading next week or begins a review process of those variances depends on all the parties involved.
"We don't know what we'll do," Butler said.
Butler said she hoped members of the public would write the council or attend the Dec. 21 meeting to weigh in.
Plans for the Limelight were originally submitted to the town in 2013 but were put on hold in March 2014 after the Town Council denied a request from Related to fast-track review of its application to extend its Base Village vested rights.