Yes outweighs no on Base Village
Tomorrow, Snowmass Village residents will go to the polls for a historic vote. Boiled down, they will answer a simple question: Base Village – yes or no?There are plenty of reasons to vote either way. And the effects of this election, no matter which side wins, will be profound.If the “yes” side prevails, Snowmass Village and ski area will undergo huge changes. There will be 610 new residential units, many of them “hot beds” that will be available for short-term visitors, and 65,000 square feet of new commercial space filled with restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and ski shops. A children’s center and other amenities have been promised as well.On the mountain, the Aspen Skiing Co. has pledged tens of millions of dollars in improvements. These include a new lift from the base of Fanny Hill to the top of Sam’s Knob; a new gondola from the base area to Elk Camp; and new lifts for the Big Burn and Sheer Bliss. Overall, the on-mountain experience should improve vastly for locals and visitors alike – provided Base Village passes.If the “no” side prevails, residents of Snowmass Village will be spared years of construction needed to build all those condos and shops. Without Base Village, business owners in the Mall – from hotels to restaurants to clothiers – will have the opportunity to grow organically, facing mostly small-scale, homegrown competition (as opposed to the national chains many expect to occupy Base Village and hasten the death of local businesses). Without Base Village, Pitkin County residents will not have to pay for the extensive repairs to Brush Creek Road that will be necessary following years of wear and tear from heavy trucks and equipment. Snowmass Village, the Skico and its partner in development, Intrawest, have pledged little real cash to repair the road. Without Base Village, Snowmass Village residents will not face the uncertainty that comes with resort developer Intrawest, which has projects such as Whistler/Blackcomb that are considered outstanding, and others such as Squaw Valley that leave much to be desired.The problem with voting “no,” however, is it means both the town and the ski area will remain more or less in their current state, growing and improving slowly as other ski villages and resorts invest heavily in facilities similar to those proposed here. Snowmass Village and Snowmass Ski Area could use improvements. They are more than three decades old, and they look it. It’s been a long time since the Mall was somewhere special to hang out or bar hop following a day on the slopes. Adding a major new commercial center at the bottom of Fanny Hill will likely make Snowmass Village a more interesting and lively place to be – whether in the Mall or Base Village.Proponents have long protested that Base Village is out of scale with the place they’ve come to know and love. But one has to question what those folks are trying to preserve. Snowmass Village was conceived as a resort village at the base of a major ski area, and the array of condominiums, second homes and clustered businesses that have been built over the years aren’t especially charming or cohesive. There is no “there” there.Base Village will bring a measure of cohesion to Snowmass Village and ski area. Once completed, residents and visitors will be able to rent or own, work or play from the Mall in the west side of town to Two Creeks on the east side of town to Base Village in the center. One might even say that Base Village fulfills the original vision for Snowmass.Finally, one has to wonder what the future holds if Base Village is denied. Jim Crown, the managing partner from the family that owns the Skico and the property that would become Base Village, has promised that if citizens reject Base Village, the family will throw in the towel on any kind of mixed-use development at the bottom of Fanny Hill.It’s right for residents to be skeptical of Intrawest. But they should also take comfort in the fact that it will be the Crowns, who have a commendable record of stewardship and philanthropy in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, and not Vail Associates or some other publicly traded ski resort operator that will oversee this project.Snowmass Village voters should back Base Village in Thursday’s election: Vote Yes on Snowmass Village Questions A, B and C.
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