Community purpose central to Base Village in Snowmass review
The Aspen Times
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a multi-part series about the town of Snowmass Village’s review of proposed amendments to the stalled Base Village project.
An aquatic center planned for Base Village has proven to be a sticking point as the Town Council and the developer work to get the stalled project moving again.
Base Village developer Related is seeking to downsize and relocate the facility, a “community purpose” amenity that was agreed to when the town approved the project in 2004. Ensuring that the community will still benefit from the new facility is so important to the Town Council that in November, it denied a request by Related to waive the first phase of the land-use review process so that more time could be spent on making sure the developer was holding up its end of the bargain, among other issues.
Denying that request has already slowed Base Village progress: The land-use review won’t move as quickly now, meaning that new construction will likely be delayed from this summer until 2016. That first phase of review, called a “sketch plan” in the town’s code, starts Monday with a joint meeting of the council and planning commission.
What’s in question
Community purposes, as defined in the town’s land-use code, are benefits a developer can provide in exchange for council leniency on how much it can build on a site or on dimensional limitations. When the Town Council approved the Base Village project in 2004, it allowed for the site to achieve more than 100 percent buildout — as opposed to the 65 percent that would normally be allowed — and also granted some variances on height limitations, employee housing and parking, among other construction elements.
In exchange, Aspen Skiing Co. — the original developer — agreed to several community purposes, including the aquatic center, said senior planner Jim Wahlstrom. Many have already been fulfilled, including enhancements made in the Brush Creek corridor, better design, improvements to Holy Cross Energy’s facilities, a $1 million contribution to the construction of the recreation center, an additional lane on Brush Creek Road, Snowmass ski area’s two gondolas and other on-mountain improvements, Wahlstrom said.
In its new application, Related is seeking to downsize the pool facility and relocate it adjacent to Skico’s proposed Limelight Hotel, which will also provide food and beverage service to the amenity. The pool would be free to Base Village owners — some of whom have said publicly that they purchased under the assumption that they would have access to an aquatic center — and guests. Residents and other visitors would be able to use it for a fee comparable with that of the recreation center.
The code calls for community-purpose public facilities to “meet the needs not only of project residents, but also of other residents of and visitors to the Town.” Related representatives point out that the amenity does meet the requirement of being open to everyone, but many residents and some Town Council and town staff members no longer see it as the best benefit Related could provide, since residents are more likely to use the facilities at the recreation center.
During public meetings this summer and fall, many residents and businesspeople have named alternative community purposes Related could provide, such as a permanent home for the Ice Age Discovery Center, a performing-arts center and an ice-skating rink that could double as a miniature golf course, and they question why the developer didn’t include more of those ideas in its application.
Members of the Related team think moving the pool to the heart of Base Village will make access to it more convenient. Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado, also pointed out in December that it will be closer to existing Base Village retail and dining establishments and will likely drive more business their way.
“That’s a broader perspective” than just looking at whether full-time residents will use the pool, he said.
A new home for the Ice Age Discovery Center also is included in the amendments Related is proposing. Romero said he considers the center an alternative or additional community purpose, as well.
The town’s code doesn’t include any specifications as to how big or how costly the community purpose public facilities must be, Woods said. It will be up to the Town Council to determine whether the pool and the discovery center qualify as the new community-purpose amenity in Base Village.
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