Snowmass looks to rebuild community
How do you represent a community that’s divided? It’s a challenge the Snowmass Village Town Council continues to face.With Base Village approved and construction scheduled to begin this summer, the council has its hands full trying to curb local dissension while reviewing an assortment of new projects and developments. “It’s been so contentious the past couple years, and last month with the Base Village election, that we now need to start doing things for the community,” said Town Councilman John Wilkinson. “We’re trying to focus on things that will enhance the community and bring some civility back.” About 55 percent of the electorate in Snowmass Village voted to approve Base Village, which when completed – at the earliest in 2011 – will encompass about 1 million square feet of development, primarily at the base of Fanny Hill. “The wounds are still fresh and there’s still a lot of healing to be done in our town,” Wilkinson said. Snowmass Village Mayor Doug Mercatoris said that although the wounds are fresh, he believes they’re starting to heal.”I think that the community is already coming together to make Snowmass Village be the best place it can be,” he said. “My goal is in three to five years to have folks that voted against Base Village be able to say it wasn’t so bad getting here and we like where we’ve gotten to.” On Tuesday, council members and town officials met to discuss goals for 2005. At the top of their list was minimizing impacts from Base Village construction, which is a huge concern among local residents.Wilkinson said the summer schedule will not be interrupted – an event is slated for every weekend, and the popular Thursday night concerts will not be affected – but the town wants to make the atmosphere as normal and enjoyable as possible. Mercatoris said the town will do everything in its power to ensure “that our staff has the resources they need to make sure the construction impacts are kept at a minimum and that the development provides the quality of construction management we discussed during the review process.” That may include hiring a specialist to oversee the construction phases. Meanwhile, the council has a lot of other projects on its plate. The Brush Creek Trail, community pool and recreation center, Snowmass Center and future Town Hall are all major projects coming down the pike. Mercatoris said he hopes work on Brush Creek Trail, which will be a major connector between Snowmass Village, Highway 82 and the Rio Grande Trail, will be completed sometime this summer. Since much of the trail will not fall under Snowmass Village jurisdiction, the town and officials from Pitkin County need to join forces to get the project completed. Wilkinson added that completing the trail as soon as possible will be vital, since cyclists will have difficulty sharing Brush Creek Road with large trucks during the construction of Base Village. The trail, which will have a hard surface for cyclists, would provide a safe alternative. The long-awaited community pool will also be completed this summer, and the review of the entryway and recreation center will continue. The pool will be located near the current rodeo lot. The summer rodeo will not be affected. Another project that continues to roll forward is the revitalization of the West Village, which includes the mall. Several mall owners have expressed concern that Base Village could detract from their business. The area is also in dire need of a facelift. “We all along said that the town felt the mall was an integral part of the town core, and just as important in the equation as Base Village,” said Mercatoris, who owns the Mountain Dragon restaurant on the mall and recently extended his lease an additional 15 years. “We need to figure out a way to revitalize and renew that part of the community.”Mercatoris said another community forum similar to those held during the review of Base Village will be held before the end of the ski season. “There will be lot of opportunity for interaction between the public, town staff and elected officials,” Mercatoris said, adding that the forum will be open to any discussion regarding the present and future of Snowmass Village. As for the 45 percent who were opposed to Base Village, Mercatoris said it’s clear that “they’re passionate about the issue because they love their community, and we can all pull together to make it the best it can be.” Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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