Blumenthal: So much to do, so little time to do it | AspenTimes.com

Blumenthal: So much to do, so little time to do it

Mel Blumenthal
Second View

Mel Blumenthal

Between time spent getting in shape for skiing and working off accumulated deposits of unwanted body mass acquired during the offseason, I spent a few hours this past weekend reviewing the 316-plus pages compiled by the town staff to guide the Town Council and the rest of us through the final review phase of Related's application to amend its previously approved Base Village development plan.

As predicted, when the council granted Related's request to extend its vested development rights, it gave up a good deal of negotiating leverage and also boxed itself into an approval timeline that gives Related another year to commence completion of Base Village if final approval of its requested changes isn't granted by Dec. 21.

That final review process commenced at the beginning of this week, leaving only two weeks to complete an enormous amount of work to resolve the many substantive outstanding issues that unfortunately were deferred to the end of the process. It's my guess Related favored kicking the can down the road on many of these difficult issues, anticipating the council would succumb to the time pressure and grant it whatever it wants or risk another year's delay in commencing construction. As to the town staff and council members, God only knows what they were thinking each time Related suggested a deferral, but they clearly went along like sheep to the slaughter.

With that as background, we're now where we are, and there's very little time left to clean up the mess Related intends to leave behind as it counts its windfall profits and begins packing up for its imminent exit from the Roaring Fork Valley.

Under the strong leadership of Mayor Markey Butler, hopefully the council won't be cowed by the subtle and not-so-subtle leverage that Related undoubtedly will utilize to get whatever it wants and whatever it's promised to its financial partners, including Aspen Skiing Co., which will develop and own the new Limelight Hotel and an adjoining commercial building, and East West Partners, which is still in its due-diligence phase to acquire all of Related's remaining Base Village assets and development rights.

Now back to the 316-plus pages. Significant issues still abound concerning the management, use and costs associated with the public plaza in the center of Base Village. Much of what Related promised during the preliminary review phase is not in evidence in the final documents. Contrary to the town having been promised primary use and control of this community-purpose facility as well as a flexible plaza design to accommodate a variety of community uses, the documents now show a plaza area smaller than anticipated and not well-fit for the varied uses the town was promised.

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In addition, through some sleight of hand, Skico now appears to have a priority position in the use of the plaza area for its own private business interests, and the town has been replaced by the Base Village Master Association as the controlling entity.

Plaza-area maintenance costs have been shifted to the association, which means Base Village residential owners and the commercial operators will have to cover these additional costs along with all the other Base Village costs they incur that the rest of us as well as our municipal government get a free ride on.

Many unresolved issues still abound concerning parking privileges in the Base Village garage and town parking lots. Related still appears to be favoring its various Base Village commercial partners to the detriment of the Base Village residential owners.

A significant safety issue related to Base Village traffic mitigation concerns the newly installed stop sign located opposite the parking-garage entrance. It's intended to reduce traffic congestion at the Snowmelt/Wood Road intersection; however, its downside is a dangerous backup of cars just after the blind curve above the Viceroy hotel on the slick and icy Wood Road pavement, which likely will result in serious back-end collisions.

The final design of the two most prominent buildings at the front entrance to Base Village, Buildings 7 and 8, is still up in the air since Related hasn't acquired the relevant architectural plans from Sunrise Co., which Related unilaterally terminated as the owner and developer of these buildings.

These issues, along with myriad other unresolved issues concerning employee housing, a car-share program, financial security and guarantees, additional water storage, etc., are also on the table and require resolution before the end of this month.

Complicating matters even further is the lack of any mention in the review documents of East West Partners as the potential new master developer waiting in the wings, which if all goes well during its due-diligence examination will likely become the new master developer responsible for executing the completion of Base Village. We know very little about East West Partners, and it's unlikely we'll learn much more before the completion of the final review process — and what's more problematic is the town has no say in the transfer of Related's remaining development rights.

On top of all this, the timely completion of Base Village also hinges on the outcome of Richard Goodwin's lawsuit contesting the validity of Related's extended vested development rights and Capitol Peak owners' lawsuit concerning alleged condo-sales misrepresentations.

Lots to worry about, lots to do and very little time to do it — keep your fingers crossed.

Your comments are welcome at secondview@earthlink.net.