Snowmass Town Center redevelopment’s final OK delayed by ‘double fluke’ of unsusual factors
After Town Council unanimously approved plans for a revamp of Snowmass Center on first reading last week, developers were optimistic about the timeline for their project.
Plans to redevelop the town hub seemed on track for a second reading before council at a special meeting Monday. The second-reading approval is the last OK developers need from council before they can move forward.
Just one thing stands in their way: Article IV, Section 4.9(d) of the town’s charter. It states that the second reading of any ordinance must be introduced at a regular — not a special — meeting before council can bring it to a vote.
The little-known, rarely used rule begins a snowball of potential delays for developers who initially saw the Monday meeting as the final hurdle to clear before they could begin the permitting process.
At a regular Town Council meeting last week, Eastwood Snowmass Investors Principal Jordan Sarick said he was “optimistic” about a one-year countdown to breaking ground. That estimate now seems out of reach, Sarick said Friday in a phone interview.
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“Obviously, we’re a little bit frustrated,” Sarick said. “We had been working under this assumption (of a second reading on Nov. 9) for months.”
Developers are now stuck in municipal limbo, waiting on a “significant number of factors” to fall into place before they’re back on track, Sarick said.
The problem lies not so much in the charter rule as it does in timing and circumstance. Typically, a one-week delay in the second reading of an ordinance would be just that: a one-week delay.
But this is no typical course of events. The shift pushes the second reading of Snowmass Center plans to Nov. 16 — the inaugural meeting of a new Town Council. Mayor-elect Bill Madsen, Councilman-elect Tom Fridstein and returning Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk will be sworn in.
Madsen’s council seat, which has two years remaining on its term, will become vacant when he assumes his new mayoral role; Fridstein fills the seat of outgoing Councilman Tom Goode, who opted to run against Madsen in the mayoral race rather than seek reelection to council.
Here’s the catch: There’s a good chance that two of the four voting members of the new council are recused from all Snowmass Center matters due to conflicts of interest.
Councilwoman Shenk’s husband works with the development team, thereby precluding her from voting on the ordinance. And Councilman-elect Fridstein, a five-year member and current chairman of the Planning Commission, was recused from the latter part of the commission’s review of the Snowmass Center; developers requested his recusal in 2019 after Fridstein presented a sketch suggesting solutions to infrastructure concerns without the approval of the applicant. That recusal is likely to carry over to his new role on Town Council, pending discussion with town officials.
If that’s the case, neither Shenk nor Fridstein will vote on the second reading, leaving only Mayor-elect Madsen and Councilman Bob Sirkus to approve the plans — and the ordinance needs three votes to pass.
The second reading of the ordinance then hinges on the appointment to fill Madsen’s vacant council seat, thereby establishing a third voting member to review the redevelopment plans.
The new council could appoint the seat as early as the Nov. 16 meeting, if they wish. Madsen has suggested on several occasions that he would consider outgoing Councilman Goode for the position. But when the topic came up at a candidate “squirm night” on Oct. 22, Goode said he was uncertain whether he would accept the nomination if he lost the mayoral race and was offered the seat.
The uncertainty of the council appointment poses a big “if” for the timeline of the Snowmass Center redevelopment.
The new council has 30 days to appoint someone to the position. If they do not fill the seat within 30 days, a special election will determine the interim council member. The appointment process could push the second reading of the ordinance well into December, causing ripple effects for the project in the coming year.
After nearly three years in the planning process, including 12 months under review with the current Town Council, Sarick said the team is “very disappointed” with the unexpected delay.
“We’ve had a great relationship with this council,” Sarick said. “I think it’s a shame that they’re denied the opportunity to see this through.”
It may seem as though the fates are conspiring against the Snowmass Center redevelopment project. But Town Manager Clint Kinney said that despite the hiccups, this isn’t an effort by town officials to impact the timeline of the project.
“We’re just following the town charter and the municipal code to a T,” Kinney said.
“There was never a promise of a vote.”
Kinney said that this confluence of factors — the charter regulation, the recusal of two members of the new Town Council and the need for a council seat appointment before a vote can be called — is a “double fluke” of the kind that might only happen once in 1,000 years.
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