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Big development firm to retire shovel

Scott Condon

A development firm that has been the biggest mover and shaker in Snowmass Village for the last 15 years is all but calling it quits.The Snowmass Land Co. is selling most of its remaining assets and laying off its four local workers, according to John Sarpa, the company’s managing director. It will also sell its 4,300-square-foot office near the base of Two Creeks in Snowmass Village, he said.The firm will retain ownership of a piece of land near the base of the Two Creeks chairlift in Snowmass Village and develop luxury townhouses there if it prevails in a lawsuit over the project, Sarpa said.Otherwise, the company is ending a successful development streak that started in the late 1980s. Chicago businessman Norman Perlmutter and Gene Golub created the Snowmass Land Co. in 1988, after buying 1,600 acres of undeveloped land around Snowmass Village. That property was seized from another firm in foreclosure.Perlmutter and Golub bought the property for just over $20 million. Since then they have developed high-end residential projects that were sold off for approximately $250 million, according to Sarpa.The company also held the most highly prized property in Snowmass Village but decided to sell it rather than try to develop it. The firm sold about 15 acres in the heart of Snowmass Village to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s owners in 2000. That land supplies the bulk of the property for the Skico’s proposed Base Village project.The Snowmass Sun reported that the Base Village property sold for $11 million.The Skico is teaming with Intrawest to build 64,000 square feet of retail space, 264 hotel rooms and 349 condominiums on the site, located at the bottom of Fanny Hill. The project has been approved by the Snowmass Village Town Council but opponents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the project. The election is scheduled to take place in early February.Perlmutter and Golub anticipated and avoided that political battle and generally got their other projects approved with little trouble.Their first development was the exclusive Divide subdivision, 26 luxury home lots between the Sam’s Knob portion of Snowmass Ski Area and the Krabloonik restaurant and dog sled operation. They next developed 96 single-family home lots and 34 deed-restricted employee housing lots at Horse Ranch.The Snowmass Land Co. also worked with the Aspen Skiing Co. to create a second base area for the Snowmass Ski Area. The Land Co. developed 102 luxury lots for single-family homes and 31 townhouses in an exclusive area known as The Pines. The firm helped the Skico pay for a new base-area chairlift at Two Creeks to help enhance the value of those lots.As its property in Snowmass Village was developed or sold off, Snowmass Land Co. began to look for new sites to develop. It teamed with the Aspen Valley Land Trust in a unique project in Missouri Heights northeast of Carbondale. The land trust bought 480 acres of a large working ranch, placed conservation easements on most of the land and worked with Snowmass Land Co. to develop 26 luxury home lots on 100 acres.The land trust conserved most of the property, formerly known as Laurence Ranch, and Snowmass Land Co. got to market an environmentally friendly, luxury subdivision. The company has installed all of the infrastructure at the property along Coulter Creek but hasn’t sold any lots, Sarpa said. Perlmutter and Golub are assessing offers that were made for the entire 26 home sites and will likely sell it as a whole, he said.Sarpa said the Snowmass Land Co. partners decided against pursuing other downvalley development opportunities simply because it didn’t match their business focus. Perlmutter has a home in the Snowmass Village area listed for sale. It is unknown if he plans to continue living in the area.Sarpa said a recent setback in court over another project in Snowmass Village played no role in the decision to fold the company. A Pitkin County district judge ruled last month that Snowmass Land Co. didn’t reserve the right to develop 17 luxury townhouses on the slopes near Two Creeks. The ruling favored the Two Creeks Homeowners Association, which fought to prevent another development in their neighborhood. Ironically, Perlmutter and Golub were defeated by people who bought into one of their projects.Sarpa said Snowmass Land Co. is appealing that ruling. If successful, it could develop the townhouses in 18 to 24 months.The court ruling keeps the Snowmass Land Co. intact longer, but only delays the company’s dissolution.”This was going to be our last project anyway,” Sarpa said of the Owl Creek Townhomes.Sarpa is leaving his post soon after the New Year for another job with a local development company. He will become a partner in the Newport Beach, Calif.-based Centurion Partners Real Estate, the firm that is developing the Residences at Little Nell, 26 units of mostly fractional ownership at the base of Aspen Mountain. The company is also seeking approvals for a project on South Aspen Street.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.