Base Village: Next stage ‘is the actual deal’ | AspenTimes.com

Base Village: Next stage ‘is the actual deal’

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co. hope to submit their next application for the Base Village project in Snowmass Village by the second week of November.

And when the “preliminary” application comes in, it is expected to include more retail and restaurant space and slightly fewer residential units.

It is also expected to provide more clarity to classic local planning issues such as employee housing, transportation and the size and scale of the buildings ? some of which are eight stories tall.

The “sketch” plan for the Base Village project was unanimously approved by the Snowmass Village Town Council last Wednesday. Sketch, or conceptual, approval in the town technically only grants an applicant the right to move to the next stage in the process, which is called “preliminary” under the town’s land-use code.

However, the preliminary application for Base Village is expected to include detailed architectural plans and a host of detailed technical studies on traffic, air quality and employee generation.

The sketch plan approval process gave Intrawest some clear signals about how the current council views the project, according to Paul Shepherd, the Intrawest vice president in charge of getting the project approved.

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“We know a lot more about how the council feels than we did back in December 2001,” he said.

For example, Intrawest heard clearly that the Town Council wants enough retail space to be included in Base Village so that no matter what happens to the Snowmass mall space, the resort will still have a vital retail center.

“The Town Council is looking for Base Village to include a critical mass of commercial space,” Shepherd said. “They have to make sure that Base Village will work commercially.”

So Intrawest will boost the amount of “pure retail” space in the project from 35,000 square feet to between 80,000 and 100,000 square feet.

To accomplish that, Intrawest will add 14,000 square feet of new ground-floor retail to its village plan and also redesignate some previously proposed commercial space as “pure” retail.

In all, there will be close to 170,000 square feet of commercial space in the next Base Village plan. Overall, the entire project amounts to close to a million square feet of new building space.

The company’s sketch plan for the new ski-in, ski-out village included 683 residential units. And while the Town Council’s resolution granting sketch plan approval didn’t specifically endorse that number of condos and hotel rooms, it didn’t suggest there should be any fewer.

It did say, however, that Intrawest needed to take a closer look at how tall and imposing some of the buildings are. Intrawest is now in the process of doing that, Shepherd said, and it may bring the unit count closer to 600 than 683.

The sketch plan approval did not answer a host of other issues which are now expected to be answered at the next stage.

Those include the amount of employee housing that the project will be required to build to offset the number of new employees. The Town Council has said it is willing to back off of the 311,231 square feet of housing that the town’s current land-use code requires and that it is willing to consider the numbers that Intrawest suggests is appropriate.

Also, the Town Council wants more information from Intrawest as to whether or not its proposal will really generate the number of high-occupancy condos it says it will.

As the resolution put it, “the applicants shall demonstrate how the units would operate in a rental pool program, including how they will provide a high-occupancy turnover of the beds in a manner consistent with their representation that the majority of the units proposed for Base Village are designed, managed and operated for short-term occupancy.”

And all the information and proposals brought forward from Intrawest in the next round of approvals matters much more than it did during sketch plan.

“This is the actual deal,” Shepherd said of the preliminary application.

If Intrawest provides the right answers for the Town Council, which will include at least one new member after the election, then it may win approval by May 2003 as it hopes. If so, it hopes to break ground on the project soon after.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]