Blumenthal: Unfinished business all over Snowmass
December 1, 2015
As we enter the holiday season, a time traditionally reserved for celebrations with family and friends and winding down the year's business affairs, the Snowmass Village Town Council is about to embark on the final critical phase of reviewing the proposed changes to the previously approved plans for the long-aborning completion of Base Village.
This final review process is much more complex than normally encountered during the final review phase. A critical Dec. 21 deadline has been set, which if not met likely means the completion of Base Village will not commence as planned this spring, leaving us with the stalled unfinished mess in the center of our resort community for at least another year.
There's lots of pressure and tension on all sides to work at warp speed during the holiday season even though it means a good deal of personal sacrifice by all the parties.
Many of us have taken comfort in Related's announced sale of Base Village to East West Partners, a company steeped in responsible mountain resort development as evidenced by their work in the Vail Valley and elsewhere throughout the country. But the word "sale" in this case is a bit premature.
There's only a letter of intent between the parties, and East West Partners is still in its due-diligence phase, which could go on for many months. But even on the slim chance they complete their work by the Dec. 21 deadline, I believe the deal likely will not close until the lawsuit brought by Richard Goodwin against the town and Related is finally adjudicated and then only if the court's decision goes into the town's and Related's favor.
Judge Gail Nichols' recent retirement and the completion of one or more depositions in the case appears to have delayed that decision until February or March. With the uncertainty of that decision concerning Related's extended vested development rights hanging as a cloud over Base Village, the buyer is unlikely to close the deal until that decision is rendered, and I assume that also goes for Aspen Skiing Co. and its closing on the Base Village parcel contemplated for its proposed Limelight Snowmass hotel and Mountain Club project.
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There's also lots of unfinished business — some major, some minor — left to be dealt with concerning Related's requested changes, which may require more time to resolve than is available during the three scheduled council meetings in December.
If by luck all the unfinished business is completed by Dec. 21, notwithstanding the lack of closure on the sale of Base Village, hopefully Related will still push the button and put up the required funds to begin the pre- construction process of ordering materials and setting subcontractors in anticipation of a spring start. Knowing Related's past history in such circumstances I'm not overly optimistic, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed anyway.
On a couple of other Related notes, its recently announced sale of the Snowmass Center and some adjacent developable land appears firmer than the sale of Base Village since this transaction was characterized as a contract of sale as opposed to a letter of intent. It also further evidences the good news of Related's accelerated plans for a full-blown exit from the village.
Although I'm still convinced the town made an unwise and financially risky decision in taking on ownership of Building 6 in the commercial core of Base Village, I'm getting a bit more comfortable due to credible reports that well-financed nonprofit entities are looking at this space as their new home or adjuncts to their existing home bases. One or more of these entities could join forces to occupy this building along with a couple of commercial operations that would draw a lot of our residents and guests over the long haul in order to enhance the vitality and economic viability of Base Village.
If the town retains ownership of this building, its tenants, whether nonprofit or for-profit, must be financially sound, otherwise the taxpayers could be left subsidizing another property the town has no expertise in managing or operating. The taxpayers are already subsidizing the rec center to the tune of $500,000 plus per year and growing. It would be unwise to take on any additional financial risk, particularly when it's not for something within the town's traditional service mandate or management expertise.
Also still unresolved is the issue of $8 million Related will owe the town in April 2017 in lieu of fulfilling its commitment to build a new conference hotel in the West Village. Hopefully we can figure out a way to collect the cash before Related declares its relevant subsidiaries insolvent following the sale of the last of its village properties leaving as the only recourse the messy process of foreclosing on the town's security lien on a piece of vacant land of questionable value adjacent to the Snowmass Center.
Speaking of finances, I noticed last week the town staff has begun spending taxpayer dollars on a puff campaign in the local papers and the town's website to pat themselves on the back concerning its recently approved 2016 town budget.
Curious in light of the fact they're eagerly spending most of what they're planning to bring in rather than saving more for a rainy day or God forbid give anything back to the taxpayers.
From our family to yours, have a happy, healthy and peaceful Thanksgiving.
Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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