Aspen Science Center joins Snowmass in community-purpose talks
The Aspen Times
While the Snowmass Village Town Council accepted, at least conceptually, an offer by Related to provide cash-in-lieu of a community-purpose aqua center in Base Village, details of the deal — as well as what the town will use that money for — remain to be seen.
While any and all ideas for use of the cash are still on the table, an Aspen organization that was recently overlooked by the Aspen City Council as the new occupant of the city’s Old Power House building has joined the conversation.
The nature of the community-purpose facility, which Related is required to provide in exchange for town code variations granted in Base Village, became a sticking point early on in the town’s review of amended plans for the stalled development. On April 13, the council unanimously agreed to move the project forward after lengthy negotiations that resulted in an offer of $4.5 million from Related for the town to build the community-purpose amenity of its choice outside of Base Village.
But Town Attorney John Dresser explained to elected officials Monday that their only formal action at that meeting had been to move the project forward. Details of plans for community purposes are usually worked out at the end of the second phase, he said.
The public also will have an opportunity to weigh in on how the town uses that money. Residents and stakeholders can write letters to the town with their opinions, and the discussion will likely be part of future public hearings, said Town Manager Clint Kinney.
In discussions with Related before this offer reached the council, town staff members made sure that the developer’s money would not be tied to any one idea, Kinney said in a phone interview two weeks ago. Those ideas so far include a center for Snowmass Discovery, conference space, performing arts or a combination, but other suggestions could still surface.
“Snowmass Discovery’s been discussed a fair amount, but I think we would try to make sure that we’re looking at all of the options, all of the opportunities that are out there,” Kinney said.
Science collaboration in the works?
A home for Snowmass Discovery has been discussed at length for some time now but has been rescinded from Related’s Base Village plans. The nonprofit has certain size and space needs but also hopes to wind up in a location near the core of the village so as to reach both valley residents and visitors.
The Aspen Science Center, which had significant community support for its proposal to open a facility in the Old Power House but did not win the backing of Aspen City Council, said in a letter to the editor last month that it was in talks with representatives of Basalt and Snowmass for new locations. Executive Director Jacquelyn Francis on Wednesday confirmed that the organization, which offers programs but doesn’t have its own facility, has had preliminary conversations with those communities.
“We do need to find a home, and we’d really like to find a place where we could do something fantastic for this community,” Francis said. “So we’re looking at several options, and some people have approached us and we’ve approached some others, and we’re hoping to find something that works for us.”
Tom Cardamone, executive director of Snowmass Discovery, acknowledged that the organizations are talking about how they could work together on a project like this.
“We’ve had an ongoing conversation about collaboration that’s actually continuing,” Cardamone said.
He didn’t want to comment further as the nonprofit’s board was scheduled to meet today.
“We’re taking stock and having a discussion in the morning at a board meeting about interim initiatives that we can take,” Cardamone said.
Whatever use Snowmass Village decides for the cash, the town owns multiple land sites where a facility could be built, including the “Point Site,” a lot next to Town Hall; Town Park, which will soon undergo a re-envisioning process, and the recently acquired Seven Star property in that same area.
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The town of Basalt is working on an update to its 2007 master plan. The document will be a blueprint for how and where the town will grow. But the family that has owned a 180-acre ranch at the edge of town for nearly 60 years objected Tuesday to the document’s parameters for its property.