Snowmass Town Council, planning commission talk comp plan, housing, growth | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Town Council, planning commission talk comp plan, housing, growth

Plan Snowmass included several public meetings and workshops earlier this year (pictured) in an attempt to involve the community on the comprehensive plan update.

The question of affordable housing and how much more Snowmass Village should develop dominated a two-hour discussion Jan. 29 between the Town Council and the planning commission.

The purpose of the joint meeting was to review the town's 184-page, $200,000 draft comprehensive plan that Snowmass officials released to the public Jan. 19.

At a special meeting last week, a few planning commission members argued that the draft plan overemphasizes Snowmass' need for added workforce housing and questioned the feasibility of the amount projected in the town's most recent housing study (383 additional units).

The Town of Snowmass contracted the Franklin, Tennessee-based, Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative LLC in late 2016 to help rewrite the comp plan. The plan is intended to establish a vision for Snowmass Village and direct the town with future growth, policies, land-use development and funding.

"The reality is, 383 units, we can't do that," Planning Commissioner Jamie Knowlton said Jan. 29. "Where are we going to build that? That's not a realistic number."

Planning commissioners recommended the Town Council conduct an updated housing study, which Mayor Markey Butler said she supported.

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"Times have changed," Butler said. "Times are really changing in terms of employee workforce."

According to Butler, Snowmass Village employees occupy 86 percent of the town's workforce housing units. She said that figure breaks down to 401 total occupants, of which 296 work in Snowmass Village and 56 elsewhere in Pitkin County.

Further, Snowmass' top housing demands are for studios and two-bedroom units.

"Overall, I think we're doing a really good job," Butler said.

The mayor questioned the "rational nexus" of Snowmass' projected goal of housing 60 percent of its workforce.

"The number is always going to be debatable," Town Councilman Bill Madsen said. "We're very limited on our resources, the amount of land we have, so I think we should stick to our goal of 60 percent. And we may never get there, but I think that should be our stated goal."

Butler also arose the issue of retiree housing, while Town Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk said she believes housing Aspen School District and the Aspen Valley Hospital employees is equally as important as Snowmass Village employees.

In contemplating future growth — another issue discussed Jan. 29 — Shenk contended that housing employees is the best way to retain them and that people do not want to move to areas with poor schools or hospitals.

Planning Commissioner Jim Gustafson agreed with Shenk, adding, "I just think we have a finite quantity of land available (and) a finite quantity of money that can be used to subsidize housing."

Gustafson proposed the town pursue housing options outside the village, with a "sleek" transportation system.

Workforce housing aside, some officials said the draft comp plan lacks a clear vision for Snowmass' future.

Others addressed the issue of future growth and the recurring notion of "just big enough" as articulated in the plan.

"To me, the definition of 'just big enough' went out the window," Butler said of the draft plan's projected redevelopment.

"When I looked at West Village — yeah, we took some of that stuff out — but I was appalled," she said. "I was also very disappointed to read about the (Snowmass) center."

In its redevelopment, the draft proposes that the 85,000-square-foot Snowmass Mall expand to up to 120,000-square-feet, said Julie Ann Woods, community development director.

The Snowmass Center, which boasts approximately 23,000 square feet of commercial, retail and restaurant space, is proposed at roughly 55,000 square feet.

Town Councilman Tom Goode said the "just big enough" term "doesn't work for me."

"When it comes down to rule versus reality, where does the term 'just big enough' apply to?," Goode said.

He asked if the concept applied to development below Kearns Road, "because what we're doing down at the mall isn't 'just big enough.'"

"This is urban versus reality," Goode said, "and the reality is we're going big."

The officials capped the meeting shortly after two hours and said they would address issues such as climate change and transportation at their next meeting.

Snowmass Town Manager Clint Kinney said town staff would compile feedback on the draft from the town's open house sessions and the planning commission will hold "at least a couple" of meetings in February to continue reviewing the comp plan.

The mayor, who earlier noted, "There's a lot of work to be done on this plan," advised against posing a March deadline.

"We want it done and we want it done well."

erobbie@aspentimes.com