Compromise close in chapel fight
The two sides in a bitter battle over the proposed Snowmass Chapel redevelopment came within a few feet of a compromise Tuesday night.Three chapel members, three opponents and a mediator met at the church in Snowmass Village to try to come to an understanding over the planned addition. The structure has been the subject of a five-year fight over its height, mass and scale.At the end of the nearly four-hour meeting, chapel officials offered to slice 5 feet off the roof line. That would put the roof at 64 feet on one end, excluding the steeple, and 51 feet on the opposite end.The three representing what they said is widespread opposition to the building’s height offered to talk about the new proposal. Brian Olson, Chonniecq Bliss-Jacobson and Greg Long said they were looking for a height closer to 40 feet. That is the maximum allowed under the town municipal code without variances.Chaplain Edgell Pyles and the redevelopment’s architect, Larry Yaw, said the acoustic quality of the building would suffer if the height is lowered. And they reiterated the concessions they have already made.While the proposed building exceeds town code, chapel members contend that the benefits to the community through increased meeting space, musical opportunities and an overall better place to worship warrant variances from the code.Opponents have countered that the building is simply too big and will dominate the village landscape.Long said he wondered if all groups seeking to use the conference rooms in the new chapel would be accepted.”Would you be opposed to gay and lesbian groups?” he said.Pyles said the chapel had never turned a group away for anything and would not in the future.In discussing the need for a new building, he said the chapel served 20 families when he started in the mid-1970s. About 800 families now attend, he estimated.But Pyles said space constraints are not the main reason for the redevelopment. The goal is a more impressive chapel and community building, he said.”The desire is to build a sanctuary that fits with the community,” Pyles said.Bliss-Jacobson said that members of the town’s planning commission deemed the building as still too high, even after a previous height reduction to the plan. They recommended lowering the building, she said.Long brought up the subject of eliminating the first floor to lower the building. But Yaw said that in addition to harming the acoustics, removing the first floor would affect disabled access and the placement of elevators and mechanical and storage space.”When you squeeze the balloon, where does it go?” he said.Lowering the building more than the 5-foot compromise would also trigger a site re-evaluation plan that could take two to five years, Pyles added.”Today we passed the $1 million mark in fees paid on this project,” he said.Olson questioned whether chapel officials were being flexible enough in trying to reach a compromise.”If you can’t find a way to lower the first floor, what are you willing to do? There’s a lot of can’ts going on. What can we do?” he said.Pyles said the chapel’s governing board had agreed to the 5-foot compromise, and opponents agreed that was progress.”If you accept that, we’re getting close to common ground,” Pyles said.”We’re closer than we were a minute ago,” Bliss-Jacobson agreed.Opponents said they would discuss the chapel’s offer and meet with Pyles as soon as possible. The Town Council is to discuss the matter April 3.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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