Ex-mayors call for Base Village moratorium
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Unless the Snowmass Village Town Council changes their attitude toward the proposed development of Base Village, members of the public plan to take matters into their own hands.
“I’ve never seen a council act this way,” said Jeff Tippett, a former Snowmass Village mayor who served on the Town Council for 17 years. “I’m very concerned with the way they’re operating.”
Tippett’s not alone. After months of minimal public feedback, several Snowmass Village residents called on the Town Council Monday to enact a moratorium on further action on the application to build more than 600 condominiums and a massive retail center at the base of Fanny Hill.
Base Village is a joint proposal by the Aspen Skiing Co. and resort developer Intrawest. It is being built on Skico-owned land at the bottom of the Fanny Hill lift.
Council members feel the call to halt the proceedings was misguided and useless. “A moratorium wouldn’t serve any useful purpose,” Councilman Arnie Mordkin said.
“We can accomplish the same goals without stopping the process,” agreed Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester.
Mordkin believes those calling for a moratorium are, in effect, preaching to the choir. “It’s not like I’m ignorant or ignoring them,” he said, “I think [Base Village] is too big.
Tippett, however, is still concerned, wondering why – if they share similar inhibitions – the Town Council has allowed the project to progress this far.
Generally, the size of Base Village, as it has been proposed and considered, is simply too large for Snowmass Village, Tippett said.
“The height, mass and density will have tremendous visual impact,” Tippett said. Roads will have to be widened or rebuilt entirely, and nobody has even considered the increased demand for water the development will create, he added. “I was astounded that they passed the conceptual [plans],” he added.
Tippett believes the Town Council is too focused on the economic boost Base Village may provide. Business in Snowmass Village began declining in 1998, and was compounded by the post-9/11 economic downfall.
“I’m afraid that compounding has gotten people more frightened than they need to be,” Tippett said, “it’s a knee-jerk reaction.”
Furthermore, Tippett doesn’t even know if Base Village would be provide the economic boom that’s being presented to the Snowmass Village community.
“I think that’s yet to be proven,” he said.
But Tippett and members of the Town Council share one concern – public attendance at these meetings has been dismal, and therefore so has feedback.
“Yes, yes!” Mordkin said in response to whether he was frustrated about the meager public feedback. And as for the public onslaught Monday night, Mordkin said he was happy they finally voiced their concerns.
“I get angry when they don’t show up,” he said. “Because nobody has showed up, they don’t realize we haven’t had a real position on [the proposal],” he added.
Town Council members want to remind everyone that final approval has yet to be granted. Furthermore, they say they want to broaden the avenue of communication with the public.
“Communitywide dialog is a good idea,” said Manchester, who is preparing a series of public meetings to develop dialog. “I’m trying to put together a process to draw these people in,” he added.
“How do you want your community to be?” Mordkin asked. “Only the community has the power [to decide that].”
But Tippett, who has been meeting with a group of like-minded residents to discuss the evolution of the proposal, maintains that if communication isn’t improved and other Base Village issues aren’t addressed by the Town Council, he and other members of the public will respond aggressively.
A citizen initiative, if successful in forcing an election on the approval, would put the project’s fate into the hands of the public.
[Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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