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Does Base Village mean rocky roads?

Steve Benson

The Pitkin County engineer is expressing concern about the impact the proposed Base Village project in Snowmass Village will have on Brush Creek and Owl Creek roads, and on area wildlife.

Brush Creek Road will suffer wear and tear from the movement of heavy trucks during the construction of the village, and Owl Creek Road may see an increased amount of traffic from motorists attempting to avoid the construction, county engineer Bud Eylar said. Final approval of Base Village could happen in late May.

Owl Creek Road, Eylar said, is not structured to deal with a substantial increase in traffic. A major elk migration path also crosses the road, and Eylar is fearful the heightened traffic will have a negative impact on the animals.

Furthermore, Eylar feels once Base Village is completed, the conditions of the roads will only continue to deteriorate.

“What it amounts to is that the increasing volume of traffic is more of a concern for the traffic capacity of the road,” he said. “When you put more cars out there, you get delays and congestion … and the more cars something generates, over time that will start to break down the road.”

The county is responsible for Brush Creek Road from its intersection with Highway 82 up to the area of the Rodeo Lot, and approximately four miles of Owl Creek Road from its intersection with Highway 82.

But roads can be repaired, for a price.

Intrawest, the developer of Base Village, will pay for road repairs and upgrades in Snowmass Village. The fates of Brush Creek and Owl Creek roads outside the town limits aren’t as certain.

Currently, there is an informal agreement between the county, the town and Intrawest that road damage caused specifically from Base Village will be covered by the developer.

“Certainly our position is if there ends up being damage, we’ll figure out if that’s Base Village’s responsibility,” Snowmass Village town manager Mike Segrest said. “Intrawest would be required to pay proportional shares, and we just have to figure out a methodology to determine that.”

And as Segrest pointed out, there’s currently no formal written agreement that Intrawest will cover the charges since the project has not been approved. The council resumes its review of the project tonight in council chambers at 5 p.m.

“We’ll be responsible for our impact, absolutely,” Michael O’Connor, Intrawest’s vice president of development, said. “[But] we have to make a determination of what our impact is, and we’re still discussing a percentage of wear and tear.”

Eylar is hopeful that percentage will be fair, and he admits there’s not much he and the county can do to make sure that happens, since the development is not inside Pitkin County.

“We have no control over the developer,” Eylar said. “When you hit the town line, as far as I know, there’s nothing we can do.”

As for how the roads within Snowmass Village’s town limits would be impacted by Base Village, a traffic analyst from Felsburg Holt and Ullevig offered a number of solutions.

Perhaps the greatest change would occur at the intersection of Kearns Road, Brush Creek Road and Wood Road, where a roundabout is being proposed.

While Steve Pouliot, a traffic expert contracted by the town, expressed his general satisfaction with the analysis, some residents were not as optimistic.

“I don’t know whether I’m getting numb from all these meetings or what – I should have been incensed and out of my chair and screaming with my fists waving,” said Jeff Tippett, chairman of Citizens for Responsible Growth. “But I didn’t.”

Tippett has a number of concerns regarding the project, but mainly he said he finds it “difficult to believe they’re going to increase the bed base by 50 percent and decrease traffic.”

O’Connor said he felt good about the analysis, since the projections were conservative and included considerations for potential growth beyond Base Village.

Segrest credited the analysis with going to “the most extreme cases.”

But Tippett is highly concerned with the future costs, and who will be forced to bear them.

“They’re not willing to pay any greater percentage than the amount of traffic they’re contributing,” he said, adding that is not very much in the grand scheme.

Therefore, Tippett said, the town will have to hold a vote regarding an increase in taxes to help pay for road improvements.

“We could end up with a situation where the council approves Base Village and the citizens don’t approve road improvements,” he said.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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