Blumenthal: Make 2015 a year of progress | AspenTimes.com

Blumenthal: Make 2015 a year of progress

Mel Blumenthal
Second View

Mel Blumenthal

As we enter the New Year, I thought it a good time to reflect on the past year and look forward to what 2015 holds in store for us.

I'm thankful that my entire family, 16 strong, was able to gather together in Snowmass for the holidays and to ring in the New Year together. 2014 has been an anxiety-filled year for our clan, what with a couple of serious medical issues requiring expert intervention but happily leading to positive outcomes in both cases. We're all glad to see this year come to a healthy and peaceful end.

The clan's next group adventure comes in March. The entire family will reunite along with a few close friends and travel to Israel to celebrate the Bar Mitzvahs of three of my grandsons who turn 13 around the same time.

My wife's been working on detailed plans for over a year, and for some unexplained reason I was instructed to maintain a low profile in the planning process but was eagerly encouraged to participate when it comes time to write the checks and lay out the credit cards — a bit like my role during our two recent excursions to New York City.

Although it will cut into our ski season, we're anxiously awaiting this family adventure and the memories that will endure forever.

As to my forward look for Snowmass Village, 2014 was fraught with anger and dysfunction at its highest governance levels, but happily due to several key changes in staff leadership as well as elected representation, we seem to be back on track for a more peaceful and collegial way forward in addressing several key issues that will be confronting us in the year ahead.

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That being said, I can't resist throwing in my two cents as to one of these issues.

Notwithstanding our new and experienced staff leadership, I'm starting off the New Year disappointed that they seem unable to move more expeditiously with their review of Related's recently submitted application for the completion of Base Village. Related has promised that construction would get underway next summer as long as the town's review was completed by the end of May. But the town staff appears to be dragging its feet for no apparent good reason and won't even schedule its first public meeting on the application until sometime in February, which unless they advance their scheduling will ensure that the land-use review will not be completed until sometime in late summer. Thus no commencement of construction until the spring of 2016, and 2015 will be a lost year.

God only knows what the town staff has up its sleeve, but at this point in the multi-year process of trying to get this monster project completed, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's needed and to work diligently and expeditiously with Related so that construction will still commence next summer.

Most of what's in Related's application has been bouncing around this community for many months; there are no big surprises. The only contentious item to be addressed is that of finding a new community benefit to replace the previously approved aqua center, which is now becoming primarily an amenity for the new Limelight Hotel and the condo owners of Base Village — clearly no longer a community benefit.

On the positive side, Related and Snowmass Discovery have begun discussions to convert the original community benefit to one that will have broader appeal to the entire community and our guests. Related has offered to provide a permanent exhibition facility to house actual artifacts and replicas of the prehistoric discoveries that were uncovered in Snowmass a few years ago during the excavation of Ziegler Reservoir.

These discussions appear to be progressing well, but at the end of the day the final decision on this critical community benefit element is solely in the hands of the Town Council. However, just an exhibition facility alone is not likely to be sufficient to fulfill Related's community-benefit obligations. The addition of a multi-use community performance facility in Base Village that would be available for all manner of film, music, dance and theater as well as an essential adjunct to the proposed Discovery Center for lectures, seminars and audio/visual presentations would be the icing on the community benefit cake.

A mostly unused conference facility that could be converted to this use currently exists in a building adjacent to that being proposed for the Discovery Center. The space is owned by Related, and with a bit of design work and their contribution toward its conversion and renovation we could wrap up this item quite quickly and move on with the work of completing Base Village.

Many of the new town staff members are not steeped in the tortured history of Base Village that most of us have been living through for a long time. We're not interested in going back and starting all over again, even if that was possible. Hopefully the staff will not let any artificial barriers or red herrings stand in the way of moving forward expeditiously so that we begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel and make 2015 a year of productive progress.

I wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year.

Your comments are welcome at secondview@earthlink.net.

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