City, county begin joint look at Skico Buttermilk plans
The Aspen Skiing Co. formally presented its Buttermilk Master Plan to the Planning and Zoning Commissions of both Aspen and Pitkin County Tuesday.The joint review of the plan by the P&Zs is unprecedented, though the plan is subject only to informal review by the city of Aspen, while the county P&Z will vote on the document. That board will pass a recommendation on to county commissioners.Because the plan has an affordable housing component, it is subject only to a three-step review, with the P&Z voting once and the commissioners, twice. The U.S. Forest Service will review the application simultaneously, though that agency has already approved some elements of the plan, which includes a new base development at Buttermilk and on-mountain improvements.Also under review will be an amendment to the Aspen Highlands Master Plan, because a proposed gondola linking the top of Buttermilk to the base of Highlands was not included in the master plan approved for that area.In order to approve the Buttermilk plan, the county must amend its AF-SKI zone district specifications, because the plan calls for more summer use than is now permissible in that zoning classification.Although the first presentation to the P&Z is not normally a public hearing, county P&Z Chairman Peter Martin opened the meeting to public comments. The only comments came from one Maroon Creek Valley resident and from an attorney representing other Maroon Creek landowners opposed to the construction of a proposed gondola from Buttermilk to Highlands.Attorney Charles Siemon, representing Maroon Creek resident Marcella Larsen and her mother, part-time resident Wendy Larsen, said the Skico hasn’t given any thought to the interests of those who chose to live in that valley to take advantage of the beautiful views.He said the Skico hasn’t yet made public the details of its gondola plan, but has offered only schematic drawings without detail.”I would encourage you all to consider that the devil is in the details,” Siemon said. He urged the P&Z boards to seek details on the gondola proposal and make a separate decision on that element of the master plan before evaluating the rest of it.Skico planner Bill Kane responded that designers had worked to reduce the impacts of the gondola as much as possible. The lift will have tubular towers, he said, and none will be taller than 70 feet.
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In Eagle County, Vail and Beaver Creek resorts Senior Communications Manager John Plack said the company agrees with the state’s assessment that the ski industry must be out-front in its approach to ensure a safe and successful season in Colorado.