Snowmass meets to discuss town’s direction and slumping numbers
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The plight of Snowmass Village as both a community and a resort took center stage Tuesday in the second town meeting regarding the future of the village.
The meeting drew more than 200 residents to the Snowmass Conference Center.
Following a presentation by Town Manager Mike Segrest, however, the meeting’s focus was redirected by longtime resident Bill Meehan. He felt other issues needed attention before future aspirations could be addressed.
“You really bypassed the question of why Snowmass Village has deteriorated,” Meehan told the panel of town employees and council members. “What is the problem? Why have we not kept up with the competition?
“You didn’t even get close to referring to it. I don’t see how we can do any other analysis until we answer that question.”
The competition Meehan referred to is Aspen, Beaver Creek, Vail and Steamboat. Segrest’s presentation indicated that last year Beaver Creek, Vail and Steamboat enjoyed increases in skier visits, conference attendees and sales tax revenues, while Aspen and Snowmass Village posted negative numbers in all categories.
In the focus group sessions, several public opinions were offered to explain the town’s downward trend.
“I think the biggest single problem this resort has is getting here,” said Tom Guggenheim, a Snowmass Village resident since 1967.
He said he feels the location of Snowmass Village on the Western Slope makes it a destination resort that does not attract a wealth of day skiers from the skier-rich Front Range.
“Who’s going to drive four and a half hours to get here?” Guggenheim asked. He added the airport situation only compounds the situation.
“If you want to fly, you could go to Eagle and Vail, they have four major airlines,” he said, while Aspen offers only one airline.
“It’s terrible, it’s Aspen versus Eagle and Vail.”
Other residents expressed concern over Snowmass Village’s lack of effective marketing. Many pointed to Steamboat Springs as a destination resort that has a successful marketing campaign.
The lack of employee housing was another concern.
“We have created a village that in large part has excluded workers [from the community],” said resident Larry Dempsey. “The worker bees are taking their money and running downvalley.
“To reverse this trend, you have to play catch up in employee housing.”
Sherry Flack, who owns three stores on the mall, said the problem is rooted in Sept. 11. The entire nation is suffering economically, not just Snowmass Village, Flack said.
“It’s not like the sky is falling,” she added.
Resident Wayne Floyd doesn’t think that’s an accurate assessment.
“Our slide in business really happened before 9/11,” he said. What worries Floyd is that local residents and business owners will mistakenly wait for the national economy to rebound instead of addressing isolated economic issues in Snowmass Village.
“We have to have confidence in ourselves that we can react to the market,” Floyd said. “We have to take control.”
At this point, Base Village, which has been at the center of these debates, emerged in the discussion.
“Base Village – the size it’s being proposed is not the answer,” Floyd said. Like many other residents, Floyd is in favor of Base Village, but thinks its projections are too large.
As currently proposed by the Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest Corp., the project would add 635 condos, 10 townhomes, 180 employee units, 184,000 square feet of nonresidential space (including 94,000 square feet of restaurant and retail) and parking for 1,100 cars around the base of Fanny Hill. It would also include 20 homesites in nearby Sinclair Meadows.
Furthermore, Floyd is concerned with the intentions of Intrawest, the resort development company managing the project.
“[Intrawest] is selling it as a fear factor,” Floyd said.
Another debate developed over quality of life. Many residents feel the construction and ultimate size of Base Village will cramp their style, and are against any further development. Resident Ed Wissing, however, explained the issue goes much deeper.
“I find it puzzling we’re in a debate about quality of life and economics,” Wissing said. “I don’t think quality of life can be sustained without economic viability.”
“Economic health should be as high on the chart as quality of life,” added resident Jim Hooker.
A third community meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 18 at the Snowmass Conference Center.
[Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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