Crown insists there’s no plan B |

Crown insists there’s no plan B

Steve Benson
Aspen Skiing Co. owner Jim Crown listens to proponents of Base Village on Monday at the Snowmass Club in Snowmass Village. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

Jim Crown, owner of the Aspen Skiing Co., reiterated in a private luncheon Monday that Base Village will be the final offer for Snowmass Village.If it is rejected by the public in the coming referendum vote, he said, a similar proposal will not follow in the future. The reminder was well received by members of the Base Village Alliance steering committee, who were also presented with the partnership’s – Skico and resort developer Intrawest – campaign strategy leading up to the election. The referendum became official earlier this month, after the 173 required signatures were certified by the town clerk. The Snowmass Village Town Council will set an official date for the referendum election during its Jan. 3 meeting, although it appears it will select Feb. 3 for the vote. Crown said rumors he will reapply with a downsized version if the project is rejected are false. “We will not reapply … period,” Crown said. “When in our 20-year history have we said one thing and done another?”But Crown has been tight-lipped about what he would do if the project is voted down, saying only that Sinclair Meadows would be developed. That project, which has already been approved, would include 17 single-family lots and 21 multifamily townhome employee-housing units.

Jeff Tippett, chairman of the Base Village opposition group Citizens for Responsible Growth, believes Crown is bluffing to scare voters into approving Base Village. “He owns the land, and he’s got the checkbook,” Tippett said. “It defies logic, however, that the owner of one of the premier ski areas in North America would just sit on 12 acres of developable land at the base.”The only reason I can figure out why he would say that is to win this election. I can’t understand why he would really do that.” Several in attendance at Monday’s luncheon also questioned Crown about the ultimatum, expressing concern that some of the approximately 1,800 registered voters in the town also see it as a bluff. Sean Walsh, who was recently hired by Intrawest to direct the election campaign, said, “What happens if it doesn’t pass is speculation, [and we] wouldn’t speculate.”But perhaps Crown feels he’s reached the end of the road, as several similar proposals have been shot down in Snowmass Village in the past 20 years. If the project gets rejected, “people are saying they’re satisfied with what’s here now,” Crown said. “That’s the choice they’re making – there’s no third option that pops up sometime in the future.”

Former Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester, who was part of the review of the project over the past several years, went even further, saying that voting no on Base Village would not be a vote to keep things the way they are in the town. Instead, a no vote would be like saying, “I’d like to continue to decline in the market place … and do that to death,” he said. Crown suggested that it’s already almost too late to recover losses to competitors, like Beaver Creek. “Time has already moved beyond where we are at Snowmass,” he said. “I don’t know what people are waiting for.” As for the campaign, Walsh said it will be simple and honest, with the focus centered on providing the public with accurate information about the development. “Base Village stands on its own,” he said. The partnership plans to advertise in local newspapers, as well as over KSNO and KSPN radio stations.

Tippett said there are too many holes for Base Village to stand on its own. Besides the size of the development, which will encompass more than 1 million square feet mainly at the base of Fanny Hill, Tippett said he has concerns over future traffic issues and the length of the construction process, which could take more than 10 years. The applicant has a vested right to take as long as 20 years. But his main concern is centered on the 610 residential units in the project, all of which will be for sale and will help fund the development. The owners of the units will be allowed to occupy them approximately 15 days out of the year. For the rest of the time, they will be treated as rental units. Tippet is confident they will sell but not confident that they will be rented throughout much of the year. “Who are the people that are going to come here, why are they going to come here, and how are they going to get here?” Tippett said. “They haven’t been able to answer us. They haven’t presented any marketing plan to us. I’m confident they will sell the units, but beyond that, it’s a real estate play.” In the end, Tippett believes it all comes down to the location of Snowmass Village, and its proximity to Aspen. “To try to be a Whistler or Vail doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Aspen’s too close. There’s not an expert out there who can tell you what to build in Snowmass Village to keep you from going to Aspen.” Tippett has plans to start his own campaign after the holidays, utilizing newspapers, radio, phone calls and mailers. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is