‘A necessary evil’ off Brush Creek? | AspenTimes.com

‘A necessary evil’ off Brush Creek?

A plan by Base Village’s developers to install utilities alongside Brush Creek Road near the Snowmass Center drew plenty of questions at Monday’s Snowmass Town Council meeting.Intrawest’s proposal calls for the nest of natural gas, electricity and wastewater treatment infrastructure to occupy a 125-foot-wide site across from the lower intersection of Brush Creek and Kearns roads. Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co. are partners in Base Village, the mammoth development under construction at Fanny Hill at the Snowmass Ski Area.Michael O’Connor, Intrawest’s vice president of development, said the proposed site would hold utilities that could serve not only Base Village, but the redeveloped Snowmass Center and mall areas as well. The Kinder Morgan energy company and the Snowmass Water & Sanitation District have written letters of support about the site, he said.Extensive landscaping and fencing will be used to shield the area from view. The site is between Brush Creek Road and a nearby recreation path.”It will not be an eyesore,” O’Connor said, and it will “serve the community for many, many years to come.”The three councilmen present agreed to continue the special review discussion to May 30 and said they would plan a site visit to help them better understand the proposal.”I can’t figure out what this is going to look like,” said Councilman Arnie Mordkin.Fences and a wall of boulders 3 to 4 feet high will surround the site. In its highest place, the wall would be around 10 feet high, said town planning director Chris Conrad.The natural-gas operation will involve pipes that extend above ground.”I’m not comfortable with what I see here,” Mordkin said.The development would encroach 3 feet into a riparian area near Brush Creek, according to a report town staff prepared. That aspect caught the attention of Councilman John Wilkinson, who called it “very concerning.”Wilkinson also questioned why the approval for the utility site came up during the final review stages of Base Village. He suggested the developers were “coming in the back door.””I’m struggling with this,” Wilkinson said.O’Connor said the site in question was identified and a preliminary landscaping plan was completed during the Base Village review. He said he was surprised that “this was as significant an issue” as its portrayal and reiterated the project’s benefit to the entire community. He also said that the alternative would involve multiple utility sites around town instead of in one location. The discussion between Mordkin and O’Connor grew heated at times. Mordkin said the site is “right in the middle of town.” O’Connor later asked the councilman if he’d rather see the utility site “right in front of Base Village.” He called the utility area “a necessary evil.”Town Manager Mike Segrest said the site essentially has to be on Brush Creek Road because that’s the location of other main pipelines. O’Connor said placing the infrastructure on the village’s main road was also critical for accessibility reasons.Councilman Bill Boineau agreed “it almost has to be there.” Mayor Doug Mercatoris and Councilwoman Sally Sparhawk were not present.The pipes and electrical boxes would be painted in earth tones to further help the utilities blend in.A site visit before May 30 would help the council better conceptualize the project, Wilkinson said. O’Connor said the area will be staked, and that Intrawest will try to depict the height of fences and pipes.Town planners also recommended Intrawest minimize impacts such as traffic congestion, parking, service delivery, noise, odors, glare and vibration. Staff also recommended a plan to for erosion control, wetlands preservation and traffic control during installation and maintenance.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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