Key Base Village decision looms for S’mass council | AspenTimes.com
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Key Base Village decision looms for S’mass council

Steve Benson

Two weeks from today, the Snowmass Village Town Council is expected to render its preliminary decision on Base Village. If the project at the bottom of Fanny Hill seeks final approval in November, a citizens referendum could be launched that will draw a yes/no vote on the project from the community. But for now, the fate of Base Village and Snowmass Village is in the council’s hands.For nearly four years, the council has been examining the project – a process that has included forums on village leadership and community issues, multiple studies and visits to nine competitive resorts. “The number of hours we have spent are incredible,” said Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester.But the councilmen have been blasted with criticism from residents, and there is the growing sentiment that they cannot do right. While project opponents have accused the town of not listening to their concerns and moving forward with the review process too hastily, supporters of Base Village say the council is taking too long and putting the project in jeopardy. “Government has been and always will be the whipping boy,” said Carey Shanks, the town’s economic resources director.But the issues run much deeper. The council, elected to represent the community, faces a difficult task when residents are divided. To maintain some sort of a balance, the council has relied heavily on feedback it has received from a variety of community representatives in village leadership forums. The forums, organized by the town in the beginning of the new term in 2000, included representatives of commercial and lodging, the Snowmass Mall, the arts, real estate and the Aspen Skiing Co. Manchester said it was clear from the forums that the community aspired to a be a premier resort, and that the vision could be attained through a base village. That vision set forth by the community in the comprehensive plan in 2000: “We desire to retain and enhance our status as one of the premiere ski resorts in North America. We want to strengthen our market as a multi-season resort community and enhance our economy.” So the council set out to achieve that goal, and has since been criticized by some residents. “There are a lot of people who don’t understand the fundamental requirements that it takes to be a successful destination resort,” Manchester said. “But I feel very comfortable with this project. There are issues about the process and the timing, and there will certainly will be some growing pains, but I do believe this project becomes the catalyst for so many other improvements that we need to have in order to maintain our viability. “It’s not just about Base Village, but what it creates for other people [in the community] to be successful.” Shanks said it all comes down to the community’s vision, and the work that has been done to realize that vision. “We are following the vision of the [comprehensive] plan,” Shanks said. “[The councilmen] did their homework. “How come everybody else can say what’s right and what’s wrong and they haven’t done any homework? This isn’t political theory – the council is working on hard data to see what will work for this town.” Based on the community’s concerns, the council has made several compromises to Base Village in the past year, including reducing the overall size of the development. “Today I think the council and [Intrawest and the Skico] have worked hard to try to find a solution that is as good as it can be,” Manchester said. “I think that most of the people in our community understand how critical it is for us to move forward with Base Village.” But there are those who feel the effort from the council to truly represent the community has been poor.Jeff Tippett, chairman of Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG), which has opposed the project’s size from the beginning, said the council and staff are putting too much weight on the comprehensive plan. “They’re hanging everything on that,” said Tippett, whose group launched an initiative against Base Village last winter that was voted down by the public. “And that’s no guarantee, you just need to look at Keystone or Copper or Mammoth.” Those three resorts all have new villages constructed by Intrawest and are arguably suffering. Paul Benton is a Snowmass resident who supports the Skico and the project – if certain issues like parking, traffic and employee housing can be resolved in the coming months.Last week he criticized the Town Council.”There’s not a single voice on the council anywhere close to Jeff Tippett’s, even though Jeff’s concerns seem to be shared by at least half of the voting community, judging by the 374 people who voted for his initiative,” Benton said. “This lack of balanced representation may explain why a referendum may be inevitable.”Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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