Krabloonik’s future on the table
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A proposed land swap that would keep the Krabloonik restaurant and dog-sled operation running in Snowmass Village may be at the end of its leash.
On Monday afternoon, the Snowmass Village Town Council will consider the land swap in their role as owners of one of three parcels that is critical to making the proposal work.
And at least one member of the council, Arnie Mordkin, will be advocating against the deal. “I just don’t think it is an appropriate thing to do,” said Mordkin.
If the Town Council and Krabloonik can’t agree on a deal, this could be the last winter for the dog-sled operation, as Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen said he would have to sell.
“Once this goes, there will never be dog sledding in this area again,” MacEachen said.
When Mordkin makes his case on Monday, he may not have to try too hard to sway his fellow council members to say no to the current proposal, despite their oft-stated desire to see the dog-sled operation stay in Snowmass Village.
“I’m not sure the current proposal keeps the town in the same or better position at the end of it as it was at the beginning of it,” said T. Michael Manchester, the mayor of Snowmass Village. “And that has always been the standard we have set for them.”
What MacEachen and his attorney Dave Myler have proposed to keep Krabloonik in business is a complicated land swap that involves three land parcels, including the 1.7-acre parcel where the wild-game restaurant and dog-sled operation are located off of Divide Road, near the base of the Campground section of Snowmass Ski Area.
The deal also involves two other parcels of land, one owned by the town and one owned by the Divide subdivision homeowners’ association. Both parcels are just under an acre in size.
One is at the entrance to the upscale Divide neighborhood, where the town owns a parking lot that provides parking for Krabloonik and for day skiers heading to the the Campground lift.
And the Divide subdivision owns a parcel of open-space land between the existing parking lot and Krabloonik. It’s just off of Divide Road and is close to both Krabloonik and the Aspen Skiing Company’s new mountain-operations facility.
Under the proposal, the Divide would swap parcels with the town, and a new 30- to 40-space parking lot would be created closer to Krabloonik.
Then, the Divide would swap the old parking-lot site for a piece of land in front of the restaurant, which Krabloonik would maintain as open space, albeit open space with over 200 dogs living on it.
At that point in the deal, the town would still have a parking lot, the Divide would have the same amount of open space, and MacEachen would have almost an acre of land with views to sell as a residential home site.
The proceeds from the sale of the home site would pay for the new parking lot and allow Krabloonik to pay down its mortgage. And as part of the deal MacEachen would agree to run the dog-sled operation and restaurant for at least the next 10 years.
Three years ago, Krabloonik’s long-term, $10-a-year lease ran out, and MacEachen stepped up and bought the land for $1.4 million.
“At the time, I knew this business would not support the mortgage, but at least I put my destiny in my own hands,” MacEachen said. “Krabloonik would have already been gone otherwise.”
But the main rub in the deal, at least as far as the Town Council is concerned, is the potential value of the seven-tenths of an acre the town owns and currently uses as a parking lot.
Right now, there are deed restrictions on the parcel that prevent it from being used as anything but a parking lot. But the Divide, Krabloonik, the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Snowmass Land Company could agree to lift those restrictions, MacEachen says, and then the lot could be sold for $2 million as a single-family home site.
And that’s what bothers Mordkin.
“If it is worth $2 million to Krabloonik, it’s worth $2 million to the town,” he said.
But the Divide and Krabloonik say the town’s lot is worth hardly anything without their agreeing to lift the deed restrictions, which at this point they have no intention of doing except within the context of the current land-swap proposal.
For Town Council member Bob Purvis it all comes down to “what are the probable values for that property, now and in the foreseeable future? That’s the first question for the council.”
And both Purvis and Mordkin can see a scenario where if the Divide homeowners would really rather see a mansion at the front of their neighborhood than a parking lot, then at some point might the homeowners agree to lift the deed restrictions and let the town sell the parking lot for $2 million or more?
But MacEachen feels the town is overthinking the deal.
“It was supposed to be a real easy clean deal, but obviously it has gotten very convoluted,” he said. “This is not costing the town a single penny and they still get the parking and we are replacing the open space.”
And while the current proposal may not fly with the Town Council, other scenarios could still keep the sleds running.
“There have been a few suggestions along that way that haven’t been picked up and brought back by the applicant,” Manchester said. “They have to choose what they are willing to do.”
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