Tippett: Smaller Base Village can work | AspenTimes.com

Tippett: Smaller Base Village can work

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Jeff Tippett doesn’t miss a Town Council meeting, especially if Base Village is on the agenda.

As a result, the former Snowmass Village mayor and chairman of Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG) is as well versed in the intricacies of the Base Village application as the current mayor, T. Michael Manchester.

But that’s where the similarities stop, as the two couldn’t be further from agreement when it comes to the appropriate size of Base Village.

“It’s out of scale and character with the community,” Tippett said. “Its buildings dominate the landscape, tower over neighboring properties [and] will cast winter-long shadows over heavily traveled roadways.

“It’s ugly and urban, and that is not why people come to Snowmass.”

But the appearance of the village is just the tip of the iceberg for Tippett.

“The Aspen and Eagle airports do not have excess capacity in peak periods,” he said. “Guests will be forced to rent cars at DIA and drive to Aspen/Snowmass ” the last thing we want ” [and] our roads and intersections do not have the capacity for increased traffic.”

Furthermore, existing businesses will take a hit from the increased competition, and the atmosphere of the valley will be negatively impacted, he said.

“Overall business will not increase enough to support new and existing business, [and] many marginal businesses will make a poor impression on guests who may not come back. Building a major project in the middle of town will have a major impact on quality of life for residents and on the guest experience ” guests, particularly group business, avoid resorts where construction is taking place.”

Those fears, coupled with the belief that the Town Council is not responding to the community’s concerns, prompted Tippett and other members of CRG to launch an initiative ordinance, which is scheduled for a public vote Tuesday.

If Snowmass Village residents pass the initiative, it will change the land-use code, limiting the decision-making power of the Town Council by requiring voter approval for all future projects which exceed certain size limitations.

“In spite of what others keep insisting, CRG supports a base village, albeit a base village smaller than the one proposed,” Tippett said. “The initiative, if passed, will allow the council to approve, without another vote, a base village with 40,000 [square feet] of commercial and 414 residential units.”

Tippett and CRG have been criticized for drafting the initiative rather than waiting for the council’s final decision, when a referendum could be launched.

“An initiative does not kill Base Village; it gives the developer an opportunity to respond to clear public input, an incentive to downsize the project and avoids a future vote,” Tippett said. “A referendum cannot take place for several more months [after final approval] and is a yes/no, up/down vote. If a referendum passes, BV is dead ” the developer would have to start all over again.”

Additionally, he said the initiative plugs a loop hole in the current land-use code that gives the council the power to “grant unlimited variances to height and density limits in the code.” If the initiative passes, the council will be limited to granting variances of 15 percent on density and 60 percent on height.

“Allowing a 15 percent variance for density and 60 percent for height results in a Base Village of 414 residential units [that number would vary, depending on the size of the units] with a maximum height of five stories and 40,000 square feet of commercial,” Tippett said. “This is still a substantial project ” who can prove that a project of this size would not work for the town?”

But some feel that Base Village aside, the initiative will overburden residents who would have to vote on every project that exceeds the land-use code by a certain amount.

“Residents will not have to vote on every little project in the future. A remodel on a single-family home … would never require a vote,” Tippett said. “For example, if the proposed chapel includes a steeple of 72 feet, an election would be required. Voters who cared about the chapel one way or another would have a right to vote, but voters who were not concerned would not be required to vote.”

With the effort Tippett has put into fighting the size of Base Village, some wonder if he just misses being in the limelight.

“Anyone who says that I simply miss being in office is trying to discredit the efforts of CRG, doesn’t know me, hasn’t been to a council meeting lately or all of the above,” Tippett said. “I am enjoying my retirement, I don’t relish confrontation and hate the glare of fluorescent lights and overheated, stuffy rooms.”

Tippett served on the Town Council for 17 years, beginning in 1977, and was mayor between 1982-86. He’s been the chair of the trails committee since before the town was incorporated (in 1977) and has worked on the town’s comprehensive plan.

“I have no plans to run for any elected office ” 17 years on the council was more than sufficient,” he said.

His involvement, he said, is driven by his desire to preserve the Snowmass he loves.

“I want to spend the rest of my days here,” he said. “I’ve previously invested a lot of time in making Snowmass what it is, and I don’t want to see it ruined.

“My vision for Snowmass Village in the future is of a livable community that has maintained a successful resort by avoiding the trap of overdevelopment. I think the world needs and will cherish a small, uncongested, unique resort.

“If we can protect and not destroy the qualities that we now have, our successful future is assured.”

[Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com]