SVRA considers major changes | AspenTimes.com

SVRA considers major changes

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Snowmass Village Resort Association board will look at two proposals on Friday that could radically alter the makeup of the organization.

The first proposal could end the SVRA’s civic assessment, or sales tax, on merchants at the Snowmass Village Mall.

And the second proposal would give Silvertree Hotel owner Bill Burwell a lease on the Snowmass Conference Center.

“We’re willing to look at anything that provides greater economy of scale or makes sense from a business perspective,” said Hiram Champlain, the chairman of the SVRA board.

The SVRA has been struggling to effectively market the resort and manage the conference center, and it recently merged its central reservations department with one in Aspen to form Stay Aspen/Snowmass.

The proposal for the SVRA to drop its civic assessment on mall merchants is coming from the town of Snowmass Village, which is in favor of replacing the SVRA tax with a townwide tax to be used for marketing the resort.

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If SVRA’s assessment did go away, merchants on the mall would still pay sales tax, but they might pay less, and they would likely pay the same amount as those doing business at the Snowmass Center, at on-mountain restaurants at the Snowmass Ski Area and at the forthcoming Base Village.

The SVRA is the original governing agency in Snowmass Village, and its boundaries stretch only as far as the lodging properties and commercial space on Fanny Hill and the mall. The town’s boundaries include the town and the entire ski area.

The town’s proposal for a townwide sales tax could be taken to voters in November.

Part of the plan is that a new entity would be created to market the resort. It would be at arm’s length from the Town Council, but funds to run it would still be collected by the town.

The SVRA board’s executive committee has seen the plan and supported bringing it forward to the full board, which is meeting Friday, April 12.

The town’s proposal includes the sale of the conference center from the town to the SVRA for $2.58 million, which is the same amount the SVRA owes on the $8 million building.

Under the terms of the original deal to get the conference center built, the SVRA was to pay for the building, but the town would then technically own the building. The SVRA, however, has the right to buy the building at fair market value, which has yet to be established.

The sale of the conference center, the abandonment of the civic assessment, the passage of a townwide tax and the setting up of a new marketing entity are all part of the proposal.

“It’s an important meeting,” said Snowmass Village Assistant Town Manager Carey Shanks.

Also on SVRA’s agenda is the proposal for SVRA to step away from managing the conference center and lease it to Burwell, who already manages close to 20,000 square feet of conference space at the Silvertree and Wildwood hotels, which are next door to the conference center.

If the SVRA agrees to the lease, it would take the SVRA out of the conference business. And if it agrees to the town’s proposal, it would be out of the resort marketing business.

What then is left of SVRA, which used to focus on marketing, conference business, reservations and marketing?

Group sales, says Champlain.

The SVRA’s common assessments, or property taxes it places on the condo owners within its boundaries, could be used to fund an ongoing sales effort to make it more likely that condos in the rental pool would be rented more often.