Complex Base Village starts to sprout critics | AspenTimes.com

Complex Base Village starts to sprout critics

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

According to a review of the Base Village project by the Snowmass Village Planning Commission, the project is too tall, too dense and doesn’t have enough employee housing.

And from the perspective of Pitkin County and residents and business owners in Snowmass Village, the project from Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest lacks public parking, and raises transportation and construction management questions.

However, the planning commission is expected to soon recommend approval of the project and send it along with a series of recommendations to the Town Council to review.

To date, as the project has worked its way through the first level of the town’s approval process, it has met with only mild criticism. And it is clear that Intrawest and Skico expect the project to be approved at the “sketch plan” level and move on to the “preliminary” level.

In a recent planning commission meeting focusing on the parking for 10 proposed townhomes on Fanny Hill, Intrawest Vice President Paul Shepherd said of one suggested issue, “Just go ahead and write it in, and we’ll address it at preliminary.”

The Base Village proposal asks for more than what the Comprehensive Plan, or town master plan, envisioned for the site. But the town’s land-use code allows the council to decide if a series of “community benefits” outweighs the potential downside of granting exemptions to the Comp Plan.

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The benefits suggested so far by Intrawest and Skico include new lifts, such as a gondola to Elk Camp and a quad to Sam’s Knob, a transit center and a children’s center. But Intrawest is also listing items such as “removal of antiquated/abandoned infrastructure at Base Village” that the council may consider an essential part of the project, not a community benefit.

The latest version of Resolution No. 8, the draft planning-commission document recommending approval of Base Village, summarizes the project. It contains “approximately 17.37 acres for approximately 683 residential units, approximately 37,414 square feet of commercial space, 7,403 square feet of skiers services including a children’s center, 39,244 square feet of community use facilities, including a proposed aquatic center and events/entertainment area, and approximately 990 underground parking spaces on three levels. Buildings will range in height from two to eight stories above finished grade.”

Outside of the core 15-acre site, the proposal also includes the 10 townhomes on Fanny Hill; two 5,500-square-foot homes in Melton Ranch; 24 single-family homes and 29 employee units on the 22-acre Sinclair Meadows site behind the Little Red Schoolhouse; 100 employee housing units in the Draw parcel above the Conoco station; and 36 employee-housing units near the Snowmass Club.

The resolution notes that portions of the project are consistent with the town’s Comp Plan, but that “other uses appear inconsistent with the intended land use designation.”

The Comp Plan calls for 222 units in the Base Village area, and Intrawest has proposed 683 condos, spread out over 833,640 square feet. Intrawest condos are smaller than what the Comp Plan envisioned, so the proposed build out is really about one-and-a-half-times bigger than what the town’s growth plan allows based on square footage, according Jim Whalstrom, a senior planner with the town.

Others watching the project have noticed the differences between the Comp Plan and the proposal.

Jeffrey Server and John Francis, owners of commercial space on the Snowmass mall, have hired Mary Brown of Intermountain Corporate Affairs to serve as their advocate on the project. She told the planning commission in a May 13 letter that “the proposal for Base Village asks for several variances from the adopted codes, but does not adequately address the rationale for allowing the requested variances.”

Brown also points out what she considers other aspects of the building that are not in compliance with town codes, saying the buildings are too tall, there is not enough parking, and there is not enough employee housing.

And the planning commission resolution, at least as presently drafted, tends to concur.

“The employee housing square footage proposed by the application is lower than what is required by the Municipal Code,” the document states in regard to housing, noting that 330,863 square feet of employee housing is required by the code, yet Intrawest and Skico are proposing 209,865 square feet of housing “by utilizing a reduced employee generation multiplier rate and by proposing donations of land for employee housing credits.”

In regard to parking, Intrawest and Skico propose 332 public and skier parking spaces for Base Village. That’s a reduction from the 415 to 512 cars that currently park on a busy March day in Lots A, B and C, including ski area employees.

And while there are a total 900 spaces proposed for the project, that is 1,300 spaces shy of what the code requires. However, the Comp Plan calls for parking to be reduced above the wooden skier bridge over Brush Creek Road, which makes it likely that the council is not going to require Intrawest to meet the code requirements.

Ellen Sassano, senior long-range planner for Pitkin County, says the removal of employee parking from Base Village means Intrawest and Skico should pay for more transit.

“The proposal does not clearly outline how the displacement of current employee parking will be mitigated,” Sassano writes in a May 3 memo to the town. “Given that the proposal provides less parking than is called for even by current demand, there is a need to address regional and local transit demand.”

And the county is concerned about construction traffic.

“There will be almost a million square feet of residential and commercial space created from this development plus the required utilities, roads, parking and other infrastructure improvements,” Sassano’s memo states. “This work will have a dramatic impact on the county roads adjacent to the Town. Brush Creek Road in particular will bear the brunt of the construction traffic for the amount of time it takes to build out the project.”

The town planning commission will next review its draft resolution of the Base Village plan on May 29.

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