Mordkin recusal delays review of Snowmass chapel expansion
Snowmass Town Councilman Arnie Mordkin created yet more controversy over the plan to build a new chapel and community center in Snowmass Village by recusing himself Tuesday night without explanation.Mordkin said he had a personal and private interest in the matter but was unwilling to elaborate. He declined to comment on his decision. Although Mayor Doug Mercatoris found Mordkin’s explanation insufficient, he noted there is no legal requirement that Mordkin disclose the reasoning behind his decision. Mordkin on Wednesday again said he had nothing further to say on the situation. Mordkin sat in a chair in the hallway while council members and the public held a lengthy discussion about his behavior. “I think Arnie is an ethical person,” Councilwoman Sally Sparhawk said. She said she trusts his judgment.Residents Greg Long and Robin Riggs pointed out that Snowmass Village is nevertheless a small town and that residents will speculate about why Mordkin would recuse himself without comment.The original proposal for the new Snowmass Chapel called for a 33,000-square-foot building that at its highest point was 78 feet above the ground, considerably larger and taller than the town’s land-use code allows. Town Council denied the proposal in August. Chapel representatives were not proposing anything new Tuesday but seemed more flexible with a reduced size. They have been asking for more height, scale and mass to allow for musical events; they have cited the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act as one reason that they should be allowed to build what they want. The law grants religious institutions certain exemptions from local land-use rules.When the chapel redevelopment was first proposed, Chaplain Edgel Pyles said, “We thought we were bringing a gift the community would appreciate and be thankful for.” He said he didn’t anticipate community opposition. “It has been a long, drawn-out process because of the variance in the allowances required,” Riggs said after the meeting. She also said chapel proponents have complicated the process further by citing the federal law.The application will come before the Town Council again on Feb. 6.
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