Snowmass meets halfway on Skico hotel plans | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass meets halfway on Skico hotel plans

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

Plans for an affordable hotel in Snowmass Base Village are moving forward thanks to a compromise on process by the town's elected officials on Oct. 7.

The Aspen Skiing Co. was appealing a decision by the town's Community Development Department that its proposed plans for a Limelight Hotel in Base Village, similar to the one the company owns in Aspen, qualified as a major amendment to the planned-unit development there rather than a minor one.

The Snowmass Village Town Council agreed with town planners' interpretation of the land-use code but decided to modify the process for Skico by waiving the requirement of a sketch-plan review.

A major amendment requires review of a sketch plan, preliminary plan and final plan by the Planning Commission and Town Council. With scheduling and public-notice periods between meetings, Skico executives estimated that the sketch plan process would have added about six months.

"We're asking for one thing: to treat this as a minor (planned-unit-development) amendment so that we can get into those discussions and have those lengthy and broad discussions but to have them in a timely manner so that we can get a hotel up and operating by December 2015," said Mike Kaplan, Skico CEO, to the council toward the beginning of the discussion.

The Limelight Hotel in Aspen is more affordable than Skico's other hotel option, The Little Nell. The new Snowmass property would be lower in price point than the Westin and Viceroy resorts, the two largest hotels in the village, said Don Schuster, Skico vice president of hospitality development.

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Prior to a presentation by Skico executives, Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado, voiced his support of the appeal. Romero said that Snowmass Acquisition Co., the Related subsidiary that is the master developer of Base Village, would be submitting plans, including for a roundabout at Wood and Brush Creek roads, concurrently with Skico's.

"The three things that concern me about this (appeal) are employee housing, parking and the roundabout," Councilman Fred Kucker said to Romero.

"Employee housing and parking, we will share in those responsibilities together," Romero said. As for the roundabout, which Snowmass Acquisition is bound to complete as the primary Base Village developer, "you'll see that as it's unfolding," Romero said.

Schuster made a presentation about the Limelight Hotel in Aspen and what the company wants to do with one in Snowmass Village. The ski-in, ski-out hotel would have more than 100 rooms and a restaurant with a limited menu, similar to that in Aspen, according to the presentation.

"Let's make this so people are going out and having dinner at night," Schuster said.

Following the presentation, Councilman Jason Haber said that there was ample evidence to support the decision by town staff but that the circumstances might "warrant a revised or modified process."

"I think that's comfortable to me from the standpoint of the code, and it gives the applicant effectively the process that they're looking for," Haber said.

Schuster said Skico would be comfortable with that alternative because it eliminated the sketch-plan-review period, "which was our goal." He added that the company would likely request the town waive some other requirements, such as air-quality and storm-water reports that have been done already.

"We have got to do something for this village to get some vitality going," Councilwoman Markey Butler said.

Former Councilman Arnie Mordkin said the hotel is a "great idea" but that he doesn't believe it qualifies for a minor planned-unit-development-amendment process.

"Council can waive a whole bunch of things," he said. He suggested that as the best way to shorten the process.

"To Arnie's point, it is a great idea," said Scott Calliham, who owns two Base Village restaurants. "I'd also like to see it completed in Arnie's lifetime."

The council members voted unanimously to approve the modified process.

"We'll see you back here," Schuster said.

Looking forward

Skico has signed a letter of intent to purchase Lot 2 in Base Village from Related but has not entered into a contract yet. That's the next step, Kaplan said. He hopes to present a preliminary plan for review within 60 days.

Lot 2 includes what are known as Buildings 4, 5, 9A, 9B and 9C in the approved Base Village plans. The Limelight would go in Building 5, and plans do not call for it to change the exterior shape of the building.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com