Woods comes home to Snowmass to fill planning role
For Julie Ann Woods, getting hired as Snowmass Village’s community development director is a bit of a homecoming.
The 17-year village resident has spent most of the past 10 years working elsewhere in Colorado, she worked the past two years in the county and then the city of Pueblo in the same position she will fill in Snowmass, and prior to that as a consultant with mostly municipal governments as her clients. Now, she is back living and working in the community in which she raised her children and where her husband, Jeff, who is the city of Aspen’s parks and recreation manager, has been holding down the fort.
“It’s kind of nice to come home,” Woods said during her second week on the job. “It wasn’t like I really felt like I was away because he’d either come down or I would come up on the weekends and all that, so I guess I was kind of a part-time resident for a while. … But I’ve always called Snowmass home.”
Woods, who started March 24, is filling the role vacated in August by Steve Ferris, who led the Community Development Department for one year. The Detroit native has 30 years of experience in planning and has worked in the Midwest, Colorado and Vermont.
Much of her experience related to historical preservation, which she said had a big influence on her professionally and will be useful in Snowmass.
“People are like historic? Snowmass? Really?” Woods said. “But the reality is we do have some obvious resources that are historic — the Little Red School House, Anderson Ranch. … I think we probably need to begin having a conversation about the role of creating this resort as an adjunct to Aspen’s mountains and how important that was and what was going on in the ’60s.”
After working in Central City as its historic preservation officer, Woods was hired as deputy community development director by the city of Aspen. She was promoted to director within a year.
She worked in Aspen until 2004, when she started her own practice, the Elk Mountains Planning Group Inc. Her first client was Mount Crested Butte, which sought her help on the building of its base area.
“This (Mount Crested Butte) was a community that felt very strongly that the Base Village was really their next move that they had to make to improve their local economy,” Woods said. “I wanted to make sure that the town’s goals aligned with the developers. I would expect that I would take a similar approach here, working closely with the developers and communicating what the community wants.”
What exactly that is is not as clear in Snowmass Village as it was in Mount Crested Butte; however, where the public process to approve the development went very smoothly, she said. But, she said it appears that Snowmass Village wants to see Base Village move ahead.
“I’ve not heard people say, ‘Oh, we just need to get rid of it, stop it,’” Woods said. “More the impression I’m getting from the community is, ‘OK, let’s just move ahead.’”
Related Colorado said last week that it would withdraw its application to extend its development rights, currently set to expire in November, in favor of having a broad discussion with the Town Council, Planning Commission and public about the future of the project. Woods told the council at its April 7 meeting that a big part of her job is to get Base Village “moving forward.”
“(Related is) trying to work diligently to communicate with council about why it’s important for that vesting to be extended, and it’s my role to help with that communication,” Woods said. “I think that we need to make a well-informed decision, and that’s what we need to do in providing council with good information so they can make that decision on whether or not they’re going to extend that vesting or not.”
The council has said that it would like to see updated plans for Base Village in light of the discussion about vesting rights. Representatives of Related have communicated to Woods that there are some difficulties with that, especially after Aspen Skiing Co. withdrew its plans for a hotel in Base Village, she said.
“I think the last thing that we really want is for them to submit something just to satisfy wanting to know what’s in the future if they don’t really know what that is,” Woods said.
Something else Woods brings to the table is experience with forwarding the arts through organizations she worked with in Pueblo. The creative industry is the fifth-fastest growing segment of Colorado’s economy, Woods said, and with resources such as Anderson Ranch, Snowmass is “well situated to encourage this as a local economic driver.”
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