Aspen Skiing Co. agrees to build hotel in Snowmass Base Village
The Aspen Times
The Aspen Skiing Co. agreed Monday to purchase a lot in Snowmass Base Village, where it will build a Limelight hotel similar to the one it owns in Aspen.
Related Cos., which currently owns the stalled development at Snowmass’ base through a subsidiary, will represent Skico in the review process for the new hotel. The proposed changes to the current approvals for the lot will be included with an application for amendment to the overall project that Related has promised to submit by Oct. 15.
In addition, Skico will present an application to resurrect the Fanny Hill Townhomes, a condo project that was canceled in April, said Don Schuster, Skico vice president of hospitality development, to the Snowmass Village Town Council on Monday.
“We think that we’re aligned with what the town needs and wants,” Schuster said. “We’re looking forward to being part of the project with Related.”
After completing much of the review process for its plans for Lot 2, Skico backed out of the deal in March, saying there was too much uncertainty around the whole of Base Village.
“Related will now be the applicant, and we will close on the property when Related obtains the major (planned-unit development) amendment,” Schuster told the Times in an email. “That provides us with some level of comfort that Lot 3 (Buildings 6, 7 and 8) will be developed in a timely manner.”
The deal was signed just half an hour before the Snowmass Village Town Council’s regular meeting, when it had its first public hearing on Related’s application to extend its vested rights in the stalled development. That application includes certain milestones the developer must meet in order to keep its vesting, such as completion of Lot 2 by 2019.
Schuster said that’s an outside date, though.
“Most likely we would start in the spring of 2016 and complete for the 2017-18 ski season, depending on when approvals are obtained,” he said.
After being reviewed by town staff and the Snowmass Village Planning Commission, Related’s application to extend its vesting — scheduled to expire in November — is requesting a four-year initial extension, with an automatic additional year if it meets all the milestones agreed on.
That first deadline is the submission of the major amendment application by Oct. 15. Related is proposing that if the council has not taken any action on that application by May 1, then some of the subsequent deadlines will be extended by a year, something Councilman Fred Kucker said he hadn’t been aware of before.
Councilman Jason Haber pointed out that the council could still deny the application — it just had to do it by that date.
“It’s an aggressive schedule,” said Community Development Director Julie Ann Woods. “We think we can accomplish it as long as we’re staying on task.”
Councilwoman Markey Butler asked what would happen if the subsidiary that owns Base Village were sold. Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado, said he thinks that’s unlikely to happen.
“That amount of conditioned requirements with the ability to lose the vesting really keeps us in the saddle,” Romero said. “If I were on the outside, I would look at it … with obviously a bit of negativity.”
Snowmass Village resident Arnold Mordkin — also a candidate for mayor as of Monday — said during public comment that the council didn’t have enough information to make a decision on the application yet. The public thinks that Skico’s Limelight deal is a good thing, but a Skico official told Mordkin that the company will not build the Limelight unless the separate application to move forward once again with the Fanny Hill Townhomes is approved, he said.
“You haven’t, I would submit, enough information, enough specifics, to even begin to deal with this resolution in two weeks, which is when your next meeting is,” Mordkin said.
Mordkin was not speaking out against granting the vesting, however, he said.
Kucker suggested that the town impose a financial penalty that Related would have to pay if it didn’t meet a milestone.
Cart before the horse?
Councilman Chris Jacobson said he felt like the council was being rushed to approve the application without having all the information, including the major-amendment application. Jacobson questioned why approving vesting without seeing that plan was good for the community.
Related’s reasoning has been that certain code changes now in place — in this case, added housing-mitigation requirements — would apply to the development without vesting, and that might spook investors.
“Is it really going to make or break a deal because there’s a different housing-mitigation rate?” Jacobson said.
Romero responded that the required amount of employee housing has increased by about 30 percent, an eight-figure additional investment to the project.
“I didn’t say it’s fatal, but it’s significant,” Romero said.
Councilman Jason Haber also said the officials should see Related’s plan before granting vesting, something that both parties agreed on a year ago.
“To release the one card that we have on uncertainty, … I’m not sure I understand the value of that to us,” Haber said. “We’re really backed up against a wall.”
Related is asking the town to re-evaluate the project because times have changed, Haber said, and he questioned why the town shouldn’t discuss how much employee housing is needed today, as well.
Schuster came forward again at the end of the discussion to say once again that the vesting extension was important to Skico’s involvement in Base Village.
“We need to have some surety,” he said.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.