Blumenthal: Tug of war over Base Village issues | AspenTimes.com

Blumenthal: Tug of war over Base Village issues

Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Mel Blumenthal

It’s with mixed emotions I write this week’s column.

I’m sad to see Dwayne Romero leave his valued leadership role at Related. By all accounts, it would be uncharacteristic of Dwayne to abandon the job voluntarily before the mission was completed. Having said that, it’s pretty clear to me he was pushed out by his New York handlers for what reason I have no idea and no intention of speculating on any further.

Although I didn’t always agree with everything he brought forward, I never questioned his integrity, skills and devotion to accomplishing the mission to the benefit of all of us.

In recent weeks, Dwayne paid close attention to the lengthy series of Planning Commission meetings concerning Related’s current application to amend its Base Village development approvals. He became convinced that Related’s request for changes in several key areas — i.e., community purpose, reductions in commercial square footage and the combination of Lots 4 and 6 in order to enlarge the footprint of Buildings 10A and 10B — was destined for failure. Being a smart, strategic thinker, he quickly came to the conclusion that he was about to lose all he’d been working so hard to accomplish and came up with an alternate plan.

Word of this new proposal quickly circulated around the village and not surprisingly was well-received, although not by several high-level members of the town staff, who appear to be working from their own agenda, which isn’t in sync with the Town Council’s desires or anyone else’s in the village as far as I can determine.

To be perfectly clear, our elected representatives, led by our mayor, are the primary source of strategic policymaking authority. They set the agenda, which staff pursues and executes as directed — not the other way around.

Unfortunately this bit of renegade behavior is not the first time Snowmass Village town staff, led by our new town manager, has gone off the reservation on its own hunt. At the last Town Council meeting, the staff made another last-ditch effort to save the Brush Creek Road/Wood Road roundabout in spite of the fact that no one in the community, including the Town Council, has acknowledged the need or support for such an expensive (in excess of $3 million) and intrusive road-calming device, particularly without first trying out some less expensive and less intrusive alternatives.

The staff wouldn’t even agree with the council’s request to separate further discussion of the roundabout from the review of Related’s current amendment application in order to expedite the review of matters directly related to that application. All this in spite of the fact that Related has confirmed it’s agnostic as to the roundabout and in any event will pay the $3 million price tag to the town to do with as it chooses.

As I’ve hinted before, it appears town staff is taking the opportunity afforded by this sketch-plan phase of the review process to wallow around in the weeds and reopen issues that were thoroughly discussed and resolved many years ago. Most of these staff members were not around in the early 2000s when these issues were thoroughly vetted and want to take this opportunity to start all over again. Unfortunately the eyesore of Base Village is still there, and unless staff quickly aligns with the community and Town Council, it will be a very long time before we see Base Village completed.

Although I’m sad to see Dwayne leave, I’m happy to see the return of Jim D’Agostino. If we have to have someone new to fill Dwayne’s shoes, I’m pleased it’s Jim. He was part of the original team that along with Dwayne kept this project moving along pretty smoothly until the recession hit. Jim was a valued and dedicated member of this community who was forced to leave for a few years due to circumstances beyond our and his control, but from my conversations with him, his heart never left this community, and now he’s returned to complete the job they all started back in the mid-2000s.

You may think I’m a bit soft in the head or perhaps naive in trusting Dwayne and Jim, but I do. However, I don’t trust their New York handlers, who don’t appear to have our community’s interests at heart. As Dwayne had his hands full trying to balance his view of what was best for our community versus what the New York boys wanted, so will Jim. Hopefully he’ll have the strength and fortitude to do so with the same talent and grace as did Dwayne until he unfortunately hit the brick wall for the final time.

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