S’mass mayor blasts initiative | AspenTimes.com

S’mass mayor blasts initiative

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

An initiative launched by Citizens for Responsible Growth that could sink Base Village and change the land-use code in Snowmass Village appears to be headed to a public vote after a packed meeting last night of the Town Council and residents.

“I personally believe this is going to go to a vote because I don’t see myself agreeing to [the initiative],” Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester said in the council meeting Monday night, the first since the citizens group submitted the petition last month.

“I don’t believe this initiative is appropriate,” Manchester continued. “To a significant extent, I think [it’s] insulting.”

The initiative calls for an amendment to the town’s land-use code that would force building height and density of new development to conform to the town land-use code. Limits could not be exceeded without voter approval.

The initiative was born after a petition was submitted by Citizens for Responsible Growth and certified by the town clerk. The Town Council will decide in a Jan. 19 meeting whether to adopt the initiative or turn it over to a public vote, which would then have to be scheduled within 30-90 days.

The public would vote on whether to accept the new limitations set forth by the initiative, which, in brief, are: Proposed buildings shall not exceed established height limits over more than 50 percent of the area of their footprint; no part of any building shall exceed 160 percent of established height limits; and the number of residential units or commercial density in a project shall not exceed 115 percent of the density allocated to the site under the town’s comprehensive plan.

Initially, the proposal exceeded 196 percent of density and 263 percent of height, but resort developer Intrawest has since cut back the overall size.

Intrawest, which is partners with the Aspen Skiing Co. on the project, originally proposed 635 condos, 10 townhomes, 180 employee units, 184,000 square feet of nonresidential space (including between 50,000 and 70,000 square feet of restaurants and retail) and parking for 1,100 cars around the base of Fanny Hill. It also included 20 homesites in nearby Sinclair Meadows.

Now, Intrawest plans to slash the number of condos by 100.

Manchester feels the Citizens for Responsible Growth initiative is premature since the Town Council has yet to make any decisions on the Base Village application.

Councilman Doug Mercatoris also criticized the initiative, wondering why CRG couldn’t wait to challenge the project until after the council had made a decision, via a referendum.

“There are other avenues,” he said, referring to a referendum, which could be launched by citizens following a final decision by the Town Council.

But Jeff Tippett, the chairman of CRG, said the timing was just right.

“[The Town Council] has had a year and half for somebody to stand up and say, ‘Hell no, this is too big,'” Tippett said last week. “We haven’t heard that.”

And Tippett said the recent reductions are irrelevant.

“They’re still way in excess of the code,” he said.

The Town Council’s chambers were full Monday night, and several residents commented on the issue. Those opposing the initiative are fearful that it may have lasting, negative impacts on the community, while supporters feel if the land-use code isn’t changed soon, development could get out of control.

Bob Purvis, a longtime Snowmass Village resident, said the initiative was detrimental to the town’s political integrity, as it would “undermine the credibility and authority” of the Town Council.

Manchester echoed that sentiment.

“I think you’ll have a hard time getting someone to sit at this table [in the future],” he said in reference to himself and the panel of commissioners.

Snowmass Village resident Rick Griffin was concerned the initiative would create a massive headache in regard to future development, as residents ” given the initiative passes ” may have to vote on every single project that challenges the town’s land-use code, including within the existing structures.

“I agree with [Mercatoris],” Griffin said. “This [initiative] will encompass everything that happens in this village … not just new applications.

“Nobody wants to start addressing the burden this puts on the public.”

Jack Hatfield, a member of CRG and a Pitkin County commissioner, argued the initiative would protect Snowmass Village by putting more power into the hands of citizens.

“I think it’s an insult [saying] people can’t get educated and understand [the issues],” he said.

[Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com]