Gas station a go, but who will build it?
December 11, 2006
Negotiations between Snowmass Village, the current owners of the Snowmass Conoco and Pat Smith’s development group are moving along, but a question looms: Who will pay for a gas station at the town’s entryway. Council members and representatives of Smith’s group, Brush Creek Capital Holdings, tossed around harsh words at Monday’s town council meeting. And though a land-use application for a gas station on town land received the green light, no settlement was reached.Town Council members lauded the negotiating committee’s findings, but one main hurdle remains: What is Snowmass Village willing to trade to get Smith’s group to pay for the majority of construction costs on the new station?Council members have stated they do not want the town to subsidize the new station and have looked to Smith’s group for the money. But Brush Creek Capital Holdings isn’t willing to put up $1 million to $2 million without something in return.Thus came the request from Smith’s group to fast-track the Snowmass Center development and to add more square footage. “Nobody [else] has stepped up to say, ‘We are going to be a part of the financing,'” said BCCH representative Carey Shanks. “We need the economics to bear fruit to make it happen.”Councilman Arnie Mordkin assured Brush Creek that it would get credit for the community benefits, though it was unclear what form the credit would take. And council members shook their heads no when asked if the trade value would amount to a government subsidy.Councilmembers also bristled when asked if they would offer the sweetened deal to operators other than the current owners. The request for gas station operators they put out earlier this year did not include an offer to help pay for construction. The proposal hammered out over the past three weeks shed light on the cost of the new station. Design and construction are expected to cost $1.3 million. The current owners have agreed to pay $300,000 of that and Smith’s group said it will pay the remaning $1 million.The council has agreed to appraise the property by January. It is now valued at $1.2 million, though Snowmass economic resources director Jason Haber said that figure is likely low. Since the current operators cannot afford more than $40,000 per year toward financing the loan to build the structure, Smith’s group agreed to pay cash if the property is appraised higher. Even so, the current operators would still fall short on paying the lease on the full value of the land, so the town would get 8 cents per gallon on fuel sales over the historic average. The current station owners would own the building. But as part of the deal, the town would be able to buy back the station for $1 in 30 years. Council members gave staff permission to move forward with the land-use application, though they did not give the green light to the broader deal. “I don’t feel the town should be pressured in this way,” said new Councilman Reed Lewis, referring to fast-tracking Snowmass Center. “This is a deal-breaker for me.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.