Proposed Snowmass chapel: Heaven or hell for town?
July 19, 2005
Plans for a grandiose new chapel in Snowmass Village moved forward Monday night when the Town Council voted 4-1 to accept the scale of the project.The chapel’s size exceeds town code and has sparked an outcry among neighbors of the project, who contend the building is simply too massive for Snowmass Village. A member of the town’s planning commission apparently resigned in disgust earlier this month after the board recommended that council members accept a variance allowing the project.Councilman Arnie Mordkin, who voted to accept the measurements, stressed that the vote was simply a nonbinding indication of how the council feels.”The process that we used [Monday] night was not comfortable for me,” he said. “It was nothing more than a straw vote: It doesn’t approve anything. It sends the wrong message that everything’s OK. Well it may not be.”Mordkin said major issues still surround the chapel, including parking and the “tremendous” impact it will have on the intersection of Brush Creek and Owl Creek roads.But the building itself is controversial: Its roof will top out at six stories, with a steeple rising a total of 78 feet. Chris Conrad, planning director for the town of Snowmass Village, said the building will be 140 feet long – roughly half the size of a football field. The structure will be 80 feet wide, not including recesses in the structure and connections to the old chapel.Councilman John Wilkinson was the lone dissenter Monday night. He said the chapel building will be enormous.”If you took the current chapel and the current community center, added them together and almost doubled that, that’s how much volume is above our current height limitation,” he said. “There’s still a huge building below our height limitation.”Wilkinson compared the project to the Prince of Peace Chapel outside Aspen, which has a tall, attached structure.”The front bell tower is quite high, but that’s only one part of the building,” he said.In the Snowmass Chapel project, the “entire building is that high.”Residents of the Snowmass Villas, Fairway III and Seasons Four developments near the existing chapel submitted petitions opposing the project at a July 6 planning commission meeting, according to a report in the Snowmass Village Sun.Both Wilkinson and Mordkin said their decisions were made in the interest of the community.”I’m on the minority side, which is fine, but I think it was important that the community hear that I am concerned with applying our [town] code to applications coming in front of us,” Wilkinson said.Mordkin said he understood neighbors’ concerns about the height and mass of the proposed chapel. But “the overriding factor was I believe that the community wanted to have this project go forward.”He said the planning commission is continuing to review the project.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com