Planning Commission nixes Snowmass Club request to become comprehensively planned area |

Planning Commission nixes Snowmass Club request to become comprehensively planned area

Further growth at club will be evaluated under Planned Unit Development parameters

Cross country skiers enjoy a snowy day on the trail on Snowmass Club Golf Course in view of Snowmass Village on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

If the owners of the Snowmass Club want to build more housing or lodging, they will have to do so through an extensive review process and with a “creative” approach under their current designation as a Planned Unit Development.

The Snowmass Village Planning Commission unanimously denied the Snowmass Club owners’ request for rezoning as a “Comprehensively Planned Area” at its meeting Wednesday, putting the kibosh on the club’s hopes to become the fourth area where significant growth would be considered acceptable in the town.

The Comprehensive Plan finalized in 2018 specifies that most growth should happen within one of three already-established Comprehensively Planned Areas to keep the town “just big enough.” Those three areas are West Village (including the Snowmass Mall), Faraway Ranch North (including the Snowmass Center) and Town Park.

Outside of those three zones, “no significant development, growth or change is foreseen,” the plan states; proposed projects elsewhere in the village “would require a much more extensive and thorough review.”

The Snowmass Club’s ownership team had pitched the idea to become the fourth area with that designation in November during the Snowmass Village Town Council’s review of the Comprehensive Plan. The council then referred the request to the Planning Commission.

Eric Witmondt, the club’s principal owner, has emphasized that the redesignation could enable the development of substantial affordable and attainable housing in addition to more free-market and lodging options. At the November meeting, he mentioned the potential for as many as 40-60 new units of affordable housing, though a commitment to a specific number of certain types of units hasn’t been set in stone.

“We understand that there is (an) affordable and attainable housing shortage as well as some other shortages, we think, of other market-rate types of housing and lodging,” Witmondt said at Wednesday’s meeting. “And rather than us propose locations and propose unit types, we thought it would be much better for us to work collaboratively with your staff and your professionals and, together, to come up with something that could be supported that we could present. Otherwise, we’re basically throwing darts in the dark and trying to guess at what you want.”

Building more workforce housing is absolutely a priority for the town, as is collaboration to achieve those goals, members of the Planning Commission agreed.

But there are other factors to consider in rezoning the Snowmass Club, especially given that the details of 2018 Comprehensive Plan — and, in turn, the areas designated for growth and development — were developed through an extensive process of community input and involvement, they said.

“I feel like we’re in a little bit of kind of an awkward situation as a planning commission: Now we’re being asked to consider adding a fourth CPA which, in fact, would change the course of development in the village and that would constitute a change from a vision that was created by community consensus,” Planning Commissioner Matthew Dubé said.

Fellow Planning Commissioner Jim Gustafson agreed on that front, noting that the redesignation of the Snowmass Club as a Comprehensively Planned Area “is suggesting the possibility of a much greater development node” than the one that currently exists there.

“For this area, it’s kind of a high hurdle to think about significant further development to the area,” Gustafson said.

That’s not to say that the Snowmass Club is precluded from making any additions to its existing campus as a Planned Unit Development. The Comprehensive Plan does encourage “creative development” but indicates that doing so “may require an extra level of review, such as a pre-sketch meeting with Town Council and the Planning Commission.”