Skico-friendly council in place in Snowmass |

Skico-friendly council in place in Snowmass

Brent Gardner-Smith

The base village town council in Snowmass Village is in place.

With the appointment Monday night of Bob Purvis to the Snowmass Village Town Council to replace Pitkin County Commissioner-elect Jack Hatfield, there is now a majority of new faces on the council. And they are ready to cooperate with the Aspen Skiing Company on the biggest base area project in the company’s history.

Purvis joins newly-elected council members Dick Virtue and Arnie Mordkin, veteran Councilman Doug Mercatoris and Mayor T. Michael Manchester, who was re-elected by a wide margin on Nov. 7.

“I am for base village,” said Mordkin during his run for office, “the construction of a responsible base village.”

“There are interests in this community that need to work together,” Purvis said Monday night.

“I think we understand what a major investment base village would be in this community,” said Virtue. “And I think we understand that there is only one player that can make that investment.”

Mordkin, Purvis and Virtue are representative of a growing sector of the Snowmass Village community. This sector is made up of retired or semi-retired successful businessmen who are loyal to both Snowmass, the resort, and Snowmass, the community.

There is a strong sense among the new council that it’s time to get things done. The list of projects includes not only base village, but the second phase of the Snowmass Club redevelopment, a new transit center, a community swimming pool, the rodeo grounds and several employee housing projects.

“I think there is a sentiment among the three of them to try and make substantial improvements to the resort,” said Manchester, who added that both he and Mercatoris share the sentiment. “It’s not a new list. We’ve been trying to work on these things for a long time. But there is new energy.”

And no project looms larger than base village, which includes the parking lots stretching between the bottom of Assay Hill and Fanny Hill, as well as the Skico’s administration building and vehicle maintenance shops. The base village project is expected to be formally submitted in the spring and will consist of a mix of retail, lodging, parking, transit and ski area amenities. From the Skico’s point of view, the new council is a good council for base village.

“The council and the time is right,” said Bill Kane, Skico vice president of planning. “We’re very encouraged by the direction of the town’s leadership.”

Kane noted that Purvis and Mordkin have spent time on the town Planning Commission and are familiar with the land-use code.

“We have found them to be very thorough,” said Kane. “They are bright guys, they were enormously successful in their professional lives, and I think they bring a fresh perspective.”

Mordkin, 63, is a practicing attorney in Snowmass Village and manages Snowmass Photos and Books with his wife, Cindy. Purvis was with British Petroleum for over 30 years, holding a variety of senior management positions in marketing, strategic planning and organization development. Virtue, the only member of the “Candidates for Change” slate elected, once worked for Ingersoll-Rand, started his first company at age 32, took two companies public, at one time had 3,500 employees, and today, at 55, is still active in buying and consulting with companies.

“I think some would view it as maybe a changing of the guard,” said Virtue. “But the new direction of the board represents a timing issue in the community more than anything else. I think the community has expressed an interest in some change, in some positive relationships and in trying to get some confidence back in our community.”

The elements of change in Snowmass Village include: the Skico’s willingness to make a major investment in the resort with base village; the voters of Pitkin County approving $7 million for a new transit facility in town; the town voters saying yes to $3.5 million for the purchase of the rodeo grounds and $3.2 million for a new pool; and ongoing multi-million-dollar improvements to the Snowmass Club.

What’s less certain is how well the players in the community will take advantage of the momentum. And some may worry that the council and the Skico will work too well together, perhaps to the detriment of the community.

“I think we have a level of trust and cooperation and an interest in working together,” said Kane. “It’s a new council, so there is a trust there, and hopefully, the trust will stay there. But I don’t think this is a group that is going to give anything away either. They have strong environmental values, they are outdoor guys, and they love the place. This is not a council that is going to look at an economic agenda at the sake of other values.”

Virtue said the board is not there simply to do the Skico’s bidding.

“To say that we are just a blank check for the Skico would be an insult to our integrity,” Virtue said. “We are, however, willing and eager to look for the common ground to accomplish tasks that are good for the Skico and the town.

“The Skico is right in having confidence that we are that kind of council.”

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