A local’s look at Base Village
Editor’s note: If passed by Snowmass Village voters on Feb. 3, Base Village will signify a radical change for the town. In the second article of a two-part series, The Aspen Times looks at how Base Village will change life for Snowmass residents and downvalley commuters. Yesterday’s article examined the differences for destination visitors and Aspen skiers.The most significant impact from Base Village will be felt by Snowmass locals. Residential units in the town – with its population of 1,800 – will increase by more than one-third. Even if the project is only mildly successful, residents will have to adjust to more people, more traffic, more noise and simply more stuff.Many are understandably worried about the construction period, which is projected to last six years but could be as long as 20.Noting that the Snowmass Center overhaul is next in the pipeline, Base Village opponent Jeff Tippett said “the construction period will be a nightmare for locals, especially with day-to-day things like getting groceries and mail.”We’ve all had the experience of following a cement truck up Brush Creek Road, and 15 mph is about as fast as you can go,” Tippett added.If residents can endure the construction period, the Snowmass Village of the future, with its binodal core, will be an even better place to live and work, say Base Village proponents.More than 700 jobs will be created, including the opportunity to buy one of 30 commercial spaces in the village core.Skico Senior Vice President David Perry says it’s important to find local operators for those spaces, and to otherwise cater to locals when planning for a successful new village.”The best resorts are where locals and guests mix,” said Perry. “And this has been designed to encourage that. The programming of the commercial space includes how to attract locals.”But many locals fear that real estate in the base will be too costly. Perry said the market will drive real estate prices, and some spaces will be more expensive than others due to their location. “There will be a mix of spaces and prices,” he said.Some also worry, and at least one consultant has agreed, that Base Village will “cannibalize,” or drain business from the mall. Base Village boosters have long maintained that Snowmass can only be successful if both nodes are successful, and every effort will be made to promote Base Village and the mall.Citizens for Responsible Growth’s Tippett warns that businesses may struggle because of Snowmass’ seasonal nature. Snowmass is and always has been very successful in the winter – it has the second highest occupancy rate of any Colorado resort town – but performs dismally in the summer.”I really don’t see anything in Base Village that reduces the extreme seasonality of the resort,” said Tippett. “If they had some fabulous program that makes us an attractive summer destination, that would benefit locals.”Perry argues that Base Village “has the chance to be the new heartbeat for Snowmass, to increase the sense of community. It will create new places for locals to meet each other. Now it’s the post office, the grocery store and occasionally the mall. But with the new gravity base, locals will have new choices to go socialize with one another.”But there may not be enough locals to fill in those off times, says Tippett, who notes that while more than 700 new jobs will be created from Base Village, only 225 workers will be accommodated in new employee housing.”Because of the new housing mitigation requirements, there will be a smaller percentage of Snowmass Village employees living in Snowmass,” he said. “Intrawest is not building any free-market affordable housing, so 514 employees will have to find housing outside of Snowmass Village or on the free market.”Perry thinks there are a lot of unfounded fears about Base Village, and that things won’t change that dramatically for the local.”The hardest thing for folks to do is imagine what it will be like six years from now,” said Perry. “There will be some hassles, there’s no question. There will be change, and one word that comes to mind is enhanced. It will still be Snowmass, but it will be more of Snowmass.”The downvalley commuterFor Katie Link, getting her kids, ages 6 and 4, from the family’s Basalt home to ski school in Snowmass is an hour-and-fifteen-minute ordeal, even though the actual drive is only about a half-hour.”It’s a nightmare, they really couldn’t make it more difficult,” said Link. The family – Katie, her husband Brian and the two kids – all ski at Snowmass seven Saturdays each season. They park at lot A for free because they have four in the car. But then kids, adults and all of their ski gear take the shuttle to the mall and clamber up the stairs to the children’s center.For parents who like to drop off their kids by car, there is no short-term parking on Daly Lane. And those who have to take their kids across Fanny Hill to the Snow Cave add an additional several minutes and the stress that their car will be towed.Link says she’ll take her family to Highlands when the kids are old enough to avoid the hassle.The experience of families with kids at Base Village “will be a hundred times more convenient,” said Perry. The new 25,000-square-foot children’s center will include about 40 short-term (15 minute) parking spaces, and will have easy access to the gondola and arrival center, not to mention its own magic carpet area tucked away from the rest of the hill.The downvalley skier’s whole experience, said Perry, “will be greatly augmented by the new lift system. It quickly disperses you to choice terrain so you can get where you love faster. That’s a longer day of skiing or you can do what you want in a shorter amount time.”With its 700 new jobs, many more downvalley residents will also have the opportunity to work in Base Village. Currently there are 1,000 on-mountain employees at Snowmass – of them more than 550 work for the ski school. Many buy seasonal parking permits for the numbered lots or lots B and C. In the future, ski school employees will still have access to the numbered lots, and a parking pass system will be set up at the Snowmass Club, which has about 150 spaces. From there, Skico will shuttle its employees to the mountain.Some Base Village employees will have access to the parking garage, where business owners will be allotted a few spaces, but the majority will have to park at the Highway 82/Brush Creek Road intercept lot. According to Bill Kane, Skico vice president of planning, “the conclusion was that RFTA has adequate capacity to provide that service.”Some fear that forcing employees to park in remote locations will decrease the chances of them lingering after the work day – decreasing the chances of that all important local vitality that Perry says will come with Base Village.Dustin Rowe, who lives in Carbondale but works two jobs in Snowmass, is satisfied with his situation now. The four-laning of Highway 82 through Snowmass Canyon “makes living downvalley more convenient,” said Rowe, who works for the ski school and Il Poggio. He buys a $35 pass to park in one of the numbered lots out of convenience – because of his hours, taking the bus is not usually a good option.Rowe doesn’t know how much Base Village will affect his and other worker bees’ situations. “There’s so much hearsay and so much reality blending into each other, it’s hard to sort it out,” he said. On the one hand, it could mean more steady work for ski and snowboard instructors, he said. The downside is that it may add five or 10 more minutes to the commute if they have to park at the intercept lot.”As far as getting to and from work, it’s not going to change that much,” said Rowe. “But my plan is to have a two- to five-year out on [some restaurant work] downvalley anyway, where the growth is.” And once the construction period is over, Rowe would come back to Snowmass.
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