Snowmass officials express some concerns about Base Village plan
Special to The Aspen Times
Though town officials in Snowmass Village are generally supportive of the Aspen Skiing Co.’s plans for a new base village area, they expressed concerns Wednesday night about various aspects of that plan.
“The proposal and concept is very good for our future, but it’s by no means a done deal,” said Mayor Michael T. Manchester.
One of the concerns expressed at the sketch plan meeting is the proposal to build a cabriolet, or open-air gondola, that will connect the base village to the Snowmass Village Mall.
The thinking behind the cabriolet, according to Paul Shepard, Vice President of Resort Development for Intrawest, is that “commercial services should function as a unified whole, as one town core.” Intrawest has been hired to design the project.
However, some see problems with the cabriolet as the main connection keeping that core intact.
“We need to be certain that this plan by cabriolet can function as a seamless critical core, or one of [the villages] is going to die, and it’s not going to be yours,” said Manchester.
During the sketch plan meeting with representatives of Intrawest and the Skico, Planning Commission Chairman George Higgins recalled riding a cabriolet while touring another mountain resort community on a cold day. He reminded the applicant that visitors “won’t be all bundled up in ski clothes at night,” and suggested that a warmer form of transportation would ensure the “vitality of commercial core … beyond ski hours.”
The cabriolet is one of three new lifts aimed at significantly improving skier capacity at Snowmass, said Bill Kane, the Skico’s Vice President for Planning. A new high-speed quad will carry skiers to the top of Big Burn in 17 minutes, and a gondola will make the top of Elk Camp accessible from Base Village in 18 minutes.
Kane also announced at the meeting that some existing chairlifts will be relocated, and some will be removed. The affected lifts include Assay Hill, Funnel, Wood Run, Fanny Hill and Coney Glade.
“It’s a five- to six-year project, wrapping up the last phase in 2009. We will build the cabriolet and Sam’s Knob lift in 2003 … and the gondola in the summer of 2004,” Shepard said.
The Base Village Sketch Plan includes 683 residential units, a central arrival area, gondola area, ranch garden, main thoroughfare, event plaza, apres-ski area, children’s center, clinic and 1,024 parking spaces on three floors beneath Base Village, about 200 of which will be allocated for day-skiers.
An additional 10 parcels of land in 690 acres, grouped as part of the Base Village plan, are “essential to its overall success,” Kane said.
The plan for those parcels, currently zoned as open space, includes 29 affordable housing units and 24 single-family homes on Sinclair Meadows, two large single-family homes on Melton Ranch, and open space.
County commissioner Jack Hatfield, a resident of Snowmass Village, said he didn’t understand the point in sacrificing open space as part of the development.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “What is the rationale for a good guy to come in and develop open space?”
Kane countered that a parcel of land at the intersection of Wood Road and Brush Creek is being offered for development of a new Town Hall, in exchange for future development credit.
Frank Snyder of Wild Ridge, who was ski area manager and also a founder of Stratton Mountain in Vermont, said he generally supports Intrawest, which began developing Stratton in 1994.
“You’re in good hands, but there are problems related to capacity,” Snyder said.
He questioned whether adequate attention has been paid to water supply and sewage disposal. And he also questioned possible traffic impacts.
“The road leading to this area is a long-term, serious safety problem. It’s a two-lane road. Are they going to become four-lane roads?” Snyder asked.
Hatfield also expressed concerns about potential traffic problems, pointing out that the plan does not include regional transit, and that there needs to be more off-site parking than what is planned.
He said a traffic analysis is not required as part of the sketch plan application, so the full impact remains unknown.
And Mayor Manchester warned the applicant to “get a little better than minimal” during Wednesday’s meeting, as it could “potentially be a fatal flaw to the project.”
“It is a time of opportunity to complete Snowmass, but we are also a community,” Hatfield said. “We’re gonna change forever when this occurs. What is the trade-off? Is this a good thing for Snowmass Village?”
“It’s an exciting proposal in my mind,” said Skico employee Gert Van Moorsel.
The sketch plan meetings are an opportunity for the town to raise issues and concerns, and to examine alternative approaches to development of the Base Village property.
The third Base Village Sketch Plan meeting will be held Monday at 4 p.m. at the Fairway Conference Center.
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