Unexpected twists with start of Snowmass Base Village final review
The Aspen Times
With the Base Village application back before the Snowmass Village Town Council on Monday, there were more questions remaining than the elected officials were comfortable with for its final review.
That included a new request from the applicant to push back construction of the second phase of the Viceroy, expected to begin next year, to 2019 or 2020, after other phases of work in the stalled development.
The request was added to the application at the behest of East West Partners, a Vail Valley-based developer that has inked a letter of intent to purchase the remaining Base Village assets from Related. East West has been conducting its due diligence, and the council and public learned Monday that a contract, if it is to be drawn up, is expected in the next couple of weeks.
East West and Related have always said that the deal is at least contingent on final approval of the current Base Village application by the town.
Andy Gunion, representing East West, said the company looked at the project as a whole and wanted to focus efforts on Buildings 7 and 8, the entrance to Base Village, so pushing back the Viceroy expansion made sense. East West also is considering some design changes for Building 13B that would push back the start of construction, anyway, he said.
“This is a bomb that just kind of dropped in tonight,” Mayor Markey Butler said.
Town Attorney John Dresser noted that if construction of the building is put off that long, the council might want to know if the hotel-condominium complex would still be operated by Viceroy. He added that it might be particularly important to Aspen Skiing Co., which is under contract to purchase a lot in Base Village and build a Limelight Hotel there.
When asked if Skico was still committed to building the Limelight, Don Schuster, vice president of hospitality development, didn’t have a definitive answer.
“This is a very dynamic situation going on,” Schuster said. “We need to evaluate our position.”
He told the council a lot depends on the outcome of the review process.
“It would be hard for us to miss another year in moving forward,” he said.
As for who will operate the hotel, Craig Ferraro, a partner at East West, said there is a termination clause in Related’s agreement with Viceroy that can be enacted upon sale of the property.
“We’re analyzing whether the economics of the Viceroy are sufficient for us moving forward,” Ferraro said. “It is an operation now that is challenged from a standpoint of how well it does in this marketplace. There are significant subsidies from the developer in the operation of that hotel.”
Community purpose, plaza
Another important issue addressed Monday was perceived changes to the community offerings in Related’s application. Plans include a plaza in the heart of Base Village that would include an ice rink in winter and fountains and event space in summer, but the final plan application named the Base Village Master Association as the primary operator and not the town as the council had expected.
However, once the council expressed that, Related was willing to adjust.
“You’ll have that (control) by next week,” said Andrew Dance of Related.
Changes also have been made to the parking-management plan since the last stage of review to accommodate some concerns brought forth by owners of condos in the Capitol Peak and Hayden Lodge buildings, both of which have parking in the Base Village garage. A gate will be installed to separate their parking from the spaces allotted for the Mountain Club, a private club planned to operate out of the Limelight whose membership includes parking. There are still some issues to be resolved, including questions about who will enforce parking rules once the project is completed, but council members said they were pleased with the progress.
Related also has agreed to build a mini roundabout at the intersection of Carriage Way and Wood Road, infrastructure that it had said was infeasible but now agrees would be the best alternative for improving traffic flow there. That should assuage safety concerns of some residents, two of whom came forward at the start of the meeting to express concerns about safety with a stop sign that was added there as a temporary solution so that the town and Related could gauge its viability.