Snowmass board weighs fiscal impact of Base Village
The Aspen Times
A volunteer board in Snowmass struggled Wednesday to make a recommendation regarding the most ideal amount of retail space to develop in Base Village.
The Financial Advisory Board was charged with evaluating the financial impact of proposed amendments to the approvals for the stalled development, now in the thick of the town’s land-use review process. Related’s application proposes to reduce the total square footage of restaurant and retail space in the project, and the pros and cons of that reduction were the focus of the board’s meeting Wednesday.
Both the town and developer hired consultants to conduct financial impact analyses. The consultant hired by the town suggested that the development could support more retail than is being proposed.
But board member Phil Sirianni cautioned against building too many restaurants and shops, noting the struggles existing Base Village businesses face. Related currently subsidizes two of the four restaurants there, added Craig Monzio, Related vice president of development, and current business operators have expressed the same sentiment at past council meetings.
Board member David Rachofsky suggested that both reports were lacking an analysis of the existing situation. But about two-thirds of the total restaurant and retail space planned for the development is complete, whereas about half of the hotel and condo units are finished, and that imbalance is the problem, said board member Rick Griffin.
“What’s existing now is far less residential than you need,” Griffin said. “(A report on the current situation) would only tell you you need more residential.”
The retail mix is not just a concern for guests and for the developer but also for the town, which needs to ensure that ongoing revenue will offset the expenses associated with the project, said Town Manager Clint Kinney. While Kinney advocated for more retail, he acknowledged that the location and effectiveness of the spaces might be as important as the square footage.
“An awful lot of this is in the execution,” said Greg C. Smith, board chairman. “More is better, but whether you end up with too much and they’re not sustainable is the caution.”
Related’s application also includes entertainment in the form of a plaza offering ice skating in the winter and potential for other activities in the summer as well as an exhibition facility for Snowmass Discovery.
“Entertainment such as Snowmass Discovery doesn’t create tax dollars, but it makes people more likely to stay here longer and spend money (at local businesses),” Monzio said.
And while the total square footage is reduced in the proposed amendments, the number of restaurant seats is not, Monzio said. When Sirianni asked about patio seating, Monzio replied that the number of seats reported included patios but that the square footage calculated did not.
Kinney said his main concern with not planning more retail space is losing the ability to add it down the road. If a space intended for a shop isn’t doing well, it could serve another purpose, such as a real estate office or information lounge, he said.
Because the space proposed in the application is less than the maximum allowed in the project’s zoning, additional restaurant and retail space could be added in future phases of the development on the east side, Monzio said.
Smith said he would work with town staff members on the recommendations to be made to the council but thought the retail mix proposed was “in the ballpark.”
Another discussion topic was whether Related and its consultant needed to re-evaluate the expenses to the town caused by Base Village. The consultant determined that the amendments weren’t changing the project enough to warrant another analysis of the expenditures, which some board members agreed was true.
“While we think that was probably a valid assumption, it was not mentioned in the report,” Smith said in dictating the board’s recommendation on that topic.
The Planning Commission starts its review of Related’s application at a public meeting July 15. The Town Council’s first public hearing on the application will be at a retreat to Beaver Creek on July 17. Members of the public can reserve a spot on a shuttle that the town has booked by visiting http://www.tosv.com/basevillage/application.