Base Village to pay its own way, say Skico and Intrawest
The costs directly associated with development of Base Village will be borne by people who purchase units within the project and not by the town’s current taxpayers, representatives from Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co. affirmed Monday.The Snowmass Village Town Council this week unanimously approved the formation of two special taxing districts: a metro improvement district and a general improvement district, from which those development funds will be drawn. Elected officials also spent more than two hours questioning the developers about nuances of the financing plan, which was organized in order for the partnership to receive lower-cost financing for infrastructure improvements.Skico attorney David Bellack said current taxpayers are well insulated from any potential liabilities that could result from the districting plan.”You’ll have a letter of credit from a credit-worthy bank, most likely Chase. That will be supported by a guarantee from the Crown family and Intrawest,” Bellack said.As currently proposed, the metro district would fund $24.3 million of infrastructure through 25-year general obligation bonds for amenities such as skier bridges, trails and sidewalks, construction and operation of the aqua center, a cabriolet landing site for the Snowmass Center, a transit center, day skier parking and an arts facility.The general improvement district would provide a mechanism to cover the costs of building a connecting piece of snow-melting on Lower Carriageway, fund cabriolet operations beyond normal ski area hours and pay the town’s obligation toward a Brush Creek/Wood Road roundabout.Calvin Hanson, an attorney with Sherman & Howard who has represented the town’s interests for about 12 years, told elected officials that, “People outside the boundaries can’t be liable” for the above improvements.He added that metro districts are becoming a relatively common mechanism among Front Range communities.Hanson was questioned at length by Paul Fee, a former member of the town’s financial advisory board.Fee posed pointed questions about everything from the town’s ability to borrow in the future to whose assets would be used as collateral. He was told that as long as the mill levy didn’t exceed 49.5 mills, the credit rating wouldn’t be affected. With regard to the nature of the collateral he was told that Intrawest and the Crowns’ assets are securing it.Jeff Tippett, chair of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsible Government, said after Monday’s meeting, “I was left reasonably comfortable with the explanations I was given. It’s clear more people than I raised some issues” about the town’s potential vulnerability.Reassurances on this front don’t mean that Tippett and others are wholly comfortable with the project, however. This week, a letter was sent to locals that seeks to gauge how much support is out there for a possible referendum.Purchasers of property in Base Village will pay significantly higher taxes than property owners outside the district boundaries when fees from the metro and general improvement districts and homeowners dues are figured in.According to information provided by Stan Bernstein and Associates, a financial planning firm out of Greenwood Village, Colo., owners of a 1,050-square-foot unit (valued at about $1 million) in Base Village could pay $17,938 annually to cover those costs.By comparison, owners of a 965-square-foot, two-bedroom unit at the Interlude pay about $8,500 annually, which covers maintenance of common grounds, water and sanitation fees, natural gas to the complex, water, and common-area electric service, according to Bob Johnson, general manager of the Interlude.Johnson cautioned that this may not be an apples to apples comparison with the Base Village condominiums.”It sounds like a lot but we don’t know what’s behind the numbers,” Johnson added.Still, Councilman Bill Boineau said he’s concerned that the fees may be prohibitively high and will discourage buyers from placing their units in the rental pool.”I want those to be HOT [high occupancy turnover] beds. I’m afraid with this big a number, people are going to pull them off the market,” Boineau said.Attorney Bellack replied that when looking at the percentage of value used by other resorts, which range from 1 percent to 3 percent, that Snowmass’ Base Village comes in “slightly below the midpoint.”Don Schuster, Skico vice president of real estate development, added that “as a percentage of the value of the property, we made a determination we wanted to be under 2 percent.”
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.