Heartbreak on Sam’s Knob?
SNOWMASS Sam’s Knob has become more like Heartbreak Hill for the Aspen Skiing Co.The Skico’s quest to rebuild a restaurant at the Sam’s Knob section of Snowmass Ski Area has turned into a one-year nightmare.The U.S. Forest Service first rejected the project for not blending in well enough with the forest environment. Now, the redesign, soaring construction costs and the Skico’s desire to meet a national standard for environmental design have forced the company to delay the project. The company wants to construct the restaurant next summer and open it for the 2008-09 ski season.There’s just one problem with that plan: It promised the town of Snowmass Village in writing to have a new restaurant open for the 2007-08 ski season. If not, the Skico faces a fine of $1,000 per day.The Snowmass Village Town Council indicated Monday that it will grant a one-year extension for the opening. However, the council also pressured the Skico to open an interim restaurant at the Knob for the 2007-08 winter. If not, the town may levy the $1,000 per day fine.”Our town council said, ‘Look, we want something up there,'” said Kathleen Wanatowicz, the town’s community relations director.The Skico intends to open the interim restaurant in two yurts. However, the temporary facility still is subject to Forest Service approval, noted Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.”We would like to get something on the top of Sam’s Knob as much as anyone,” Hanle said. “We’d like to meet the goal, but it’s not completely in our control.”Here’s a timeline of the troubles that have plagued the project:Spring 2005: The Skico demolished the old, outdated restaurant on Sam’s Knob to accommodate the top of a new chairlift and to prepare a site for a new restaurant. Approvals from the town of Snowmass Village required that the new restaurant be open for the 2007-08 season.June 22, 2006: White River National Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson informed the Skico that the proposed restaurant didn’t meet the federal agency’s design standards. The Skico’s initial plan was for a 250-seat, 13,000-square-foot restaurant that featured a window wall with views of Mount Daly and other peaks. The Forest Service said the design was “too contemporary and modern.” That sent the project back to the drawing board.Winter 2006-07: The Skico’s new, more rustic design for a 150-seat, 9,000-square-foot restaurant received conceptual approval from the forest supervisor’s office. The project entered the town’s review process.April and May 2007: The town planning commission approved the restaurant design. As the council review began, the Skico asked for a one-year extension for construction. Skico planners submitted documents that said the Forest Service’s rejection of the design created a time crunch.”This redesign has set our schedule back an entire year, and while we have been working diligently under an accelerated timeline, it is now clear that we are too far behind on our design and entitlement to complete the project in 2007,” the Skico said.The longer time has also made the project more expensive: “Pricing for the project increased 60 percent between January and the end of March, exceeding the budget and severely compromising the economics of the project,” the Skico memo said. “Extending this deadline will allow us to re-examine building systems and redesign portions of the building to bring project costs back in line.”The majority of the council members made it clear they want something in place for the 2007-08 season, even if it were temporary. June 18, 2007: The council agreed to grant the one-year extension on the requirement for a permanent restaurant, delaying the opening until the 2008-09 ski season. The council granted the first approval needed for the interim restaurant for winter 2007-08 and said a fine would be levied if it isn’t fully operational for Dec. 13.Hanle said the Skico hopes to see the provision for the possible fine removed from final approval for the interim restaurant. The Skico shouldn’t face a fine if the Forest Service rejects the interim facility, he said.”It’s difficult to work with one jurisdiction,” Hanle said. “Put two in the mix, and it makes it more complex.”The issue goes back before the Town Council in July. The timetable for a Forest Service review is unknown.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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