Blumenthal: Will the best be last? | AspenTimes.com

Blumenthal: Will the best be last?

Mel Blumenthal

As the old saying goes, “the best is saved for last.” Unfortunately that’s not likely to come without a good deal of contentious debate.

As we enter the final stage of the Base Village preliminary plan review, the long-awaited community purpose discussion is at hand concerning what Related is prepared to offer the community in exchange for all the various zoning and other code variations they’re requesting.

Setting the stage for the contentious part of the discussion is Related’s repeated claims they’re tapped out money wise. There’s nothing left in the cupboard for the community, so Related would just like us to graciously accept what they’ve already put on the table and say thank you ma’am — not a likely outcome.

Since the mothership headquartered back in New York City is rumored to be preparing its exit from Snowmass Village as soon as possible, they’re currently focused on maximizing their short-term profits and investing as little as possible in the long-term future success of Base Village. If their goals were long term they’d be making additional investments in order to maximize the potential success and viability of our resort community over the long haul. Fortunately or unfortunately, based on your view of Related’s likability quotient, they’re on their way out and we’ll likely be left with the devil we don’t know.

In light of this dynamic, we’ve got to make sure that Related commits now to providing all the agreements and resources necessary to ensure the long-term viability and economic sustainability of Base Village.

At the heart of the community purpose debate is the previously approved community aquatic center that was approved as a significant community purpose back in 2004. Since then we’ve built a full-service rec center and aquatic center at our entryway and clearly there’s no need for a redundant community purpose facility in Base Village.

That’s not to say the Capitol Peak and Hayden Lodge residential owners who claim they were promised pool facilities when they purchased their units or at a minimum access to such facilities close to their residences don’t have a valid argument, but clearly that’s between them and Related to flesh out. Although Related is telling them they don’t plan to give them access to any of the other pools to be constructed in Base Village.

Related’s community purpose obligations are intended to benefit the entire community and thus are much broader in scope and use than what the residential owners in Base Village might want.

Inasmuch as the originally approved Base Village community aquatic center is no longer desired by the community, Related is obligated to substitute one or more new community purposes.

During sketch plan review, Related offered the town $4.5 million to cover all or a significant portion of whatever the community decided it wanted as a community purpose facility. Somewhere between the end of the sketch plan review and the filing of their preliminary plan application, they changed their preference as to how to satisfy their community purpose obligation and offered an additional option to the town. That option was to offer the town ownership of Building 6, which was originally approved as a residential building with the intention the town would offer Snowmass Discovery most of the space in that building to house the Ice Age Discovery Center. Related’s offer is limited to paying for and constructing the exterior shell of the building. The town and/or Snowmass Discovery would be responsible for finishing out the interior of the building and providing the ongoing operating costs, maintenance, assessments, taxes, etc. incurred in operating such a facility.

Without any assured source of revenue or endowment at this point it would be unwise to rely on Snowmass Discovery’s ability to cover all those near and long term costs and it would be fiscally irresponsible for the Town to expose its tax dollars to the vagaries of running any commercial business let alone the unproven long term attraction of the Ice Age Discovery Center no matter how worthy such a facility might be.

However, the Ice Age Discovery Center in combination with all or a significant portion of a science and astronomy center along with a multi-use cultural and performing arts center, all of which has been conceptualized by Z-Group Architects, would be a very attractive and long-term benefit for our resort community.

The town already owns land in and near Base Village where such a facility could be built. With a broader base of uses than just a facility to house replicas of the ice-age discovery artifacts, it’s more likely the required funds could be raised from a much broader group of contributors in and outside the village, particularly led by Related’s contribution of a significant chunk of cash which is still an option on the table. Based on the valuation of the land on which the Base Village aquatic center was to sit and the applicable construction costs Related’s lead contribution should total in the neighborhood of $7 million rather than their initial offer of $4.5 million.

In last Thursday’s edition of the Daily News, Mary Landis, an engineering student at CU Boulder, did a magnificent job of validating the importance and need for a broader based science facility that along with other sorely needed cultural and performing arts facilities would also include the Ice Age Discovery Center.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome at secondview@earthlink.net.


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