Snowmass Club indicates interest in affordable housing scene

During comprehensive plan review, council gets a glimpse at potential public-private partnership

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)

The Snowmass Club — long a place of golf courses, tennis courts and exclusive athletic facilities for its members — could be looking to enter the affordable housing game to help address the needs of the local workforce.

The club could be a pretty significant player, too, with interest in developing as many as 40 to 60 units of affordable housing along with some free-market housing and lodging units, according to a letter to the town’s Community Development Director Dave Shinneman from Eric Witmondt, who is part of the club’s ownership team.

That could make a big dent in the town’s goal to add 185 more affordable units to the workforce housing stock in Snowmass Village, and would help offer a long-term solution to the housing-related staffing challenges many employers (the Snowmass Club included) are currently facing, Witmondt wrote.

But to develop that much new housing at the Snowmass Club doesn’t quite align with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which designates that most growth should happen within one of three Comprehensively Planned Areas — West Village (including the Snowmass Mall), Faraway Ranch North (including the Snowmass Center), and Town Park — to ensure the town remains “just big enough.”

The state of the comprehensive plan was under review in a public hearing before council on Monday; that’s what played into the timing of the letter. The club, represented by General Manager Rick Sussman and ownership team member Jordan Sarick at the meeting, hopes to indicate interest now for future discussions on the possibility of the development.

“Rather than knocking on the door on Thanksgiving and saying, ‘Hi, we’re here for dinner,’ we’re trying to kind of make reservations and say, ‘We’d like to join you for dinner some time in the future and we’d like to work with you guys as a staff, as a community, as council, to see what the opportunities are on the club.’ … We’re trying not to come over uninvited,” Sarick said.

The housing crisis is at a critical point in the community, Mayor Bill Madsen and Councilman Tom Goode observed. So there’s no doubt that more affordable housing would help; the Snowmass Club team agrees on that front.

“We think there are tremendous opportunities to work with the town, to solve the club’s housing, some of the club’s housing needs, some of the community’s needs. … We think that we can be part of the solution,” Sarick said.

The question, then, was what the best path forward would be, whether that’s an amendment to the comprehensive plan, a site-specific amendment to a major planned unit development, both or neither. After some refinement of the language, council landed on a little bit of both: the council will refer the club’s request to the planning commission for additional hearings and investigation and may recommend an amendment to the comprehensive plan down the line.

If both parties embrace the proposal after further consideration, the development of affordable housing at the Snowmass Club could be a significant public-private partnership in the effort to address the housing crisis.

The idea of more partnerships in that vein is one that Jim Laing, who oversees human resources for Aspen Skiing Co., could get behind. Skico — like just about every other business in this valley — is facing the same conundrum of a labor shortage driven by the lack of affordable housing, Laing said during an annual operations update for council on Monday night.

“Externally, just acknowledging this is a valley-wide problem — you guys, you’ve already done that,” Laing said. “We’re big on the idea of public-private partnerships, we’ve been in conversations (and) we want to make sure we continue those conversations.”

Aspen Skiing Co. has built some of their own housing at locations like the Hub at Willits and is seeking out alternative options such as renting out a hotel in Glenwood Springs, but there still isn’t enough available to meet the need. Seasonal housing is a big need, not only in the winter but the summer, too.

“People want to be here, really want to be here, in fact our applications continue at record levels, so if we can provide some support on the housing front staffing should definitely follow,” Laing said.


In other town news, the Snowmass Village Town Council formally adopted the municipal budget for 2022.

The budget projects revenues of nearly $48.9 million and expenditures in the $63.8 ballpark, which is a larger-than-usual amount of spending due to a number of capital improvement projects that will be funded by carryover and reserves.

It’s pretty darn close to the amounts projected at the beginning of the budget review season in early October, with a couple of additional expenditures tacked on for projects council requested like a widening of Highline Road for cyclist safety and a study on the future of a potential Ice Age Discovery center.