Base Village gets the green light
Base Village was approved unanimously by the Snowmass Village Town Council in a preliminary vote Thursday morning.The final application will be submitted to town staffers early next week, and the council will begin its final review in mid-September.Mike O’Connor, Intrawest’s vice president of development, said he expects the final vote to occur in mid-October. At that time, if the project is approved, citizens can launch a referendum, which would draw a final yes/no vote from the community.But representatives from the Aspen Skiing Co. and resort developer Intrawest – partners on the project – were pleased with Thursday’s vote, especially considering it was unanimous.”This is a great day for Snowmass because we now have hope,” said Skico Senior Vice President David Perry. “We’re on the path to Snowmass’ rightful position as one of the premier resorts in the world.”O’Connor said it felt good to get preliminary approval, but he reiterated that Intrawest is committed to making sure the project succeeds long after it’s approved.”This is a commitment, we want this to be long-term,” he said, adding that he and his fiancee will continue living in Snowmass Village through at least the first few phases of construction, which is expected to last through 2011. “We want to bring Snowmass back to where it was.”Last week, Councilman Arnie Mordkin hinted that he would vote against Base Village due to a variety of concerns with the proposed hotel, which has been touted as a major piece of the development. Mordkin said he felt like he had lied to the public, since the hotel appeared to be a condominium development and not a traditional hotel. All of the units in the hotel will be sold, and the owners will have access to them up to 21 days a year.Skico owner Jim Crown responded that selling units condominium-style is now a norm in the hotel industry.Mordkin was also disappointed that the units did not have lock-off capability, meaning they can be separated to create more available rooms.But perhaps most troubling to Mordkin was the status of the hotel, since a brand name has yet to be determined. Intrawest and the Skico have been negotiating with Westin for months, but an agreement has not been reached.The applicant has promised that a four-star flagship hotel will be a part of the project. On Thursday, the parties reached a formal agreement to that effect: Westin or not, a four-star hotel will be a part of Base Village. The applicant also agreed to make 14 of the hotel’s 264 units lock-off rooms.That was enough to sway Mordkin.”That’s big,” he said. “I wish it was the whole [hotel], but you get what you can.”Mordkin said he voted yes because he gave his word that if the applicant made certain adjustments, he would reconsider.”Your word is your bond,” Mordkin said. “You mean what you say, and you say what you mean.”Jeff Tippett, chairman of Citizens for Responsible Growth, which is opposed to the project, said a referendum can be expected in the fall.”I know a lot of people who are expecting a referendum,” he said.Tippett said the bottom line is that no hard evidence has been presented to support the claim that the development will attract people. Who are the people, where will they come from, and why will they come? Tippett wondered.”They’ve never answered that question,” he said. “A fundamental flaw is that they have this expectation.”And that expectation – that Base Village will attract people and the units won’t sit dark and empty, like many of the town’s current condominium developments – is way too much of a risk, he added.”We’re going through all of this agony for something that has a great deal of risk involved,” he added. “For some, these growing pains will be fatal.”Steve Benson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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