Down to the wire for Base Village permit | AspenTimes.com
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Down to the wire for Base Village permit

Chad Abraham

The decision on a permit crucial to the Base Village development will likely come down to the wire for Snowmass Village and its rapidly approaching construction season.Construction is scheduled to begin on the $400 million project in April, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might not issue a decision on the permit until the end of March, a corps spokeswoman said Tuesday.Base Village, which will bring 1 million square feet of development to Fanny Hill, has already been delayed a year because of unresolved issues surrounding the permit.Corps officials and the developers – Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co. – have been at loggerheads over how much water Base Village will use. Michael O’Connor, Intrawest vice president of development, has said the agency is requiring the developers to stick to a strict amount of water. Should they go over that amount, the companies may have to build a four-mile-long pipeline to replace water from Snowmass Creek.Intrawest and the Skico appealed that part of the permit, and development officials and corps administrators from a regional office in San Francisco have been meeting periodically.O’Connor in a recent interview did not rule out the possibility of another delay for Base Village, which will include retail and restaurant space, a children’s ski school, a conference center and condominiums.A comment period to allow both sides to review new language in the permit ended Tuesday, said Victoria McAllister, public affairs officer at the corps’ South Pacific division in San Francisco. She said a fairly small percentage of corps cases are appealed.”We’re working to get a decision, if at all reasonably possible, by the end of the month,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure our progress is not a reason for the delay.”But when a permit condition is appealed, “then people have the right to make comments, look at the comments, and it goes back and forth,” McAllister said.A regulatory appeals officer in the South Pacific division, which includes Colorado and several other states, will issue the corps’ decision on the appeal.Some projects will proceed next month, with or without the permit. But the permit will affect construction of the parking garage, which could, in turn, affect construction of the Elk Camp gondola, which is supposed to go atop the parking structure.In a letter to the corps in January, Snowmass Village Mayor Doug Mercatoris urged the agency to speed along its review. He noted the town has a “very short construction season” and needs the gondola to improve the ski area’s lift capacity next winter.McAllister said the letter got the attention of the division head, Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel.”The general looked at the mayor’s concern over the construction season and said, ‘Absolutely, in terms of how we move forward with this, we’re going to be as quick about it as we can,'” she said.The appeal process, however, has no set deadline, and there is no guarantee the corps will issue a decision by April. The process involves weighing “all the different parties’ feelings. You have to look at the legal implications – everything that has to be looked at in the permit,” McAllister said.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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