Snowmass puts brakes on development
October 16, 2007
SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” The Snowmass Village Town Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance Monday night calling for a six-month moratorium on any new land-use application in either the West Village or in Faraway Ranch North.
The West Village area is the location of the Snowmass Mall and Snowmass Conference Center; the Faraway Ranch North area is the location of the Snowmass Center.
Single-family homes, duplex developments and public facilities, such as utility or sanitary facilities, are exempt from the emergency moratorium. Any land-use application that was submitted and that the Snowmass Village planning director deemed complete before the adoption of the ordinance also is exempt.
Councilman Arnie Mordkin submitted the surprise emergency ordinance, but the Town Council and key town staffers had discussed it privately for at least a couple of months. A recent community survey in Snowmass Village showed that a significant portion of town is concerned by all of the recent construction. Snowmass Village is in the midst of what is anticipated to be more than $2 billion in new development at Base Village, the Snowmass Center and West Village.
The moratorium also came as a surprise to members of the Related WestPac development team in attendance at the council meeting. A call to Related WestPac President Pat Smith prompted him to race to Snowmass Village from his Aspen office. After reading the four-page emergency legislation, Smith was less than pleased.
“I’m taken aback,” an exasperated Smith told the council. “This targets every piece of property in Snowmass Village owned by Related WestPac [except for Base Village]. It appears that we are the target of this ordinance. I have $250 million invested in West Village. I feel appalled that this application would be submitted this way. I heard about this 15 minutes ago.”
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Council members and Snowmass Village Town Manager Russell Forrest explained their reasoning behind the emergency moratorium, enacted without any prior public notice. The town is undergoing a targeted review of the Snowmass Village Comprehensive Plan for the West Village area. That review is expected to conclude sometime next spring. According to Forrest, they are concerned that developers might not like what they hear during that Comp Plan review process, and then submit a land-use application that would be subject to the current rules rather than the new rules.
“Filing this emergency moratorium cuts off the opportunity for an end run around the process,” said Forrest. “That’s not to say that we thought they [Related WestPac] were going to do that.”
According to one town source, who requested anonymity, the emergency ordinance was mainly the result of the potential action of a company other than Related WestPac.
All five council members spoke in favor of the emergency ordinance.
“I look at this as a pause for planning,” said Mayor Douglas Mercatoris. “I think this is appropriate. I think six months for planning is a reasonable time.”
Scott Stenman, vice president of development for Related WestPac, pleaded his concern to the council, noting, after his brief reading of the ordinance, that it “jeopardizes what we’ve planned and designed at the Snowmass Center.” Related WestPac had anticipated coming back to the Town Council in November with its latest plan for the redevelopment of the Snowmass Center, with the submission of a fourth amendment to its land-use application for that project.
But in the opinion of town attorney John Dresser: “The fourth amendment [for the Snowmass Center] would not be affected by this moratorium. It only affects new land-use applications.”
Smith made one final attempt to get the council to at least wait two weeks to adopt the moratorium, allowing him time, he said, to address the council’s concerns.
But the council was of one mind; the ordinance goes into effect as soon as the mayor signs it.