County, Snowmass at odds over Base Village
Snowmass Village officials seem to be shrugging their shoulders over a highly critical report from Pitkin County on the likely fiscal impacts of the controversial Base Village development on the county budget.In a sharply worded memo, the county’s chief financial officer, Tom Oken, said, “The EPS fiscal impact study of the county’s general and road and bridge funds is of such poor quality as to render its conclusions meaningless.” EPS, or Economic & Planning Systems, is a consulting firm with offices in Colorado and California that was hired by Snowmass Village. Its mission is to provide fiscal and land-use analysis of Base Village, a massive residential and commercial development being jointly proposed by the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest Resort Development.Oken’s memo is the latest effort by the county to get Snowmass Village and the developers to address the likely effects of the project on the county roads. “The primary issue, mitigation of the traffic impacts of Owl and Brush Creek roads, has not been adequately addressed,” Oken wrote.Oken met with the Snowmass Village Town Council last week to discuss his findings, which directly counter the findings in an Aug. 29 report from EPS.EPS found that three of the county’s largest funds – the general fund which pays for administration, public safety, health and most other services; the road and bridge fund which pays for annual upkeep and maintenance; and the roadway capital fund which pays for major repairs and improvements – will end up better off once Base Village is built.By EPS estimates, the three funds will receive $845,753 in revenues annually, mostly through increased property and sales tax collections, as a result of Base Village. The annual cost of the development is expected to tax the county by $454,563, leaving a surplus of $391,190.”The fiscal impact analysis of Base Village showed a very strong positive differential – we used the same model to calculate impacts as they do,” said Mike Segrest, Snowmass Village town manager.Segrest said the town still intends to consider the county’s input, but added “this is not a requirement of our land-use code. We’re doing it out of a courtesy to the county.”Oken’s memo, however, points out that EPS’s methods for calculating costs and benefits to the general fund fail to account for the fact that Base Village will operate more like a hotel than a condominium complex, with units available on a nightly basis, similar to what occurs at The Gant in Aspen.Oken also points out that the EPS study uses an overly simplistic method for calculating the cost of maintaining Brush Creek Road, the primary route in and out of Snowmass Village. EPS took the county’s total spending on roads and divided it by the number of miles of county roads to come up with a cost per mile of upkeep and repairs.”The EPS methodology yields the ludicrous cost of $3,001 per mile for capital and maintenance costs of Brush and Owl Creek roads,” Oken writes in his memo. He goes on to point out that more than 150 of the 266 miles of county roads are dirt or gravel that receive minimal treatment of once-a-year grading. He also notes that the $3,001 per mile is well below the EPS estimate of $50,000 per mile for reconstruction of both roads once Base Village is completed.Brush Creek Road, the busiest road in the county system, is currently the most expensive to maintain and has the greatest forecast traffic increase, Oken continued.Bud Eylar, the county engineer, is recommending that several issues be addressed before construction is allowed to begin, including:-Pavement analysis to gauge current conditions.-Traffic counts to set a baseline that will be used to determine Base Village’s true impact.-An agreement from the developer to help cover the cost of repairs required by heavy construction traffic.-Analysis of likely impacts to Owl Creek Road, which will experience heavier use as visitors and locals look for ways around the construction traffic.-Mitigation measures aimed at reducing the effect of construction traffic on regular traffic.-A commitment from the developer to share in rehabilitation costs.-And a requirement that the developer resurface Owl Creek Road, which the county just finished paving, after the project is completed.Oken and Eylar also question the traffic estimates being used by the town government to calculate road and parking impacts after Base Village is completed.Using the county’s experience at Aspen Highlands, Oken calculates that the net impact will be a deficit of $35,000.It remains to be seen whether the county’s concerns, which at times have boiled over into harsh words, will be addressed by Snowmass Village. “We still intend to consider their input, but we don’t have all the answers they would like to have at this point in time,” town manager Segrest said.He added that if the project gets final approval, Intrawest and Skico have agreed to make up for any increased deterioration in the road resulting from construction. But he said it is not something that can be predicted ahead of time. Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield hopes Segrest is telling the truth. He said the county’s general fund cannot sustain the kind of hit required to pay for rebuilding the road after several years of construction traffic. “The money has to come from somewhere, and that could mean we’ll have to raise mill levies,” Hatfield said.The commissioner is dismayed with the way the county is being treated by Snowmass Village in light of their recent cooperation on the Holy Cross Electric application to install new power lines up Brush Creek. Both agreed they should be buried and worked out a way to make that happen.”We worked together on the Holy Cross thing – we compromised to accomplish the undergrounding,” Hatfield said. “But there does not seem to be a sincere effort, based on analysis of the impacts, that we’re going to see any movement towards that cooperative effort” with Base Village, he added.[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and Steve Benson’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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