Blumenthal: Lots of work in sight

Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Mel Blumenthal

Well it appears I was right, Related is still here and not likely to leave until all their dirty work is done.

Related’s strategy on behalf of its buyer in the wings, East West Partners, is to achieve final approval of its Base Village amendment application by the end of the year. A condition of the purchase agreement appears to be a fully approved and entitled project, otherwise so long, East West Partners.

As opposed to a traditional final review and approval process many more significant substantive issues than usual have been left for resolution during this final phase and likely will result in a bit more bloodletting in order to resolve them to the town’s satisfaction. Without going into a lot of nitty gritty detail the issues still to be resolved concern the public plaza area, the community purpose facility, overnight parking for Base Village condos and lock-off units, parking management, affordable housing and the final roundabout design. There also are several big ticket items still to be resolved such as the security and bonding protections required to ensure the developer does what he promises to do and guarantee we’re never again left with an unsightly unfinished mess in the heart of our community and hopefully protection against the developer skipping out of town without paying the $8 million it will owe the town in 2017.

Related used the Sunrise Co., developer/operator of Aspen’s Dancing Bear fractional residence club, as a stalking horse to get approval for the revised plans for Buildings 7 and 8 during sketch and preliminary plan review and as the basis for foisting ownership of Building 6 on the town and our taxpayers to satisfy Related’s community purpose obligations. I would assume several high-priced lawyers are burning the midnight oil in order to work out a favorable settlement for Sunrise as payback for all the damages they incurred due to Related’s bad behavior.

There’s no time to come up with new detailed architectural concepts and plans for Buildings 7 and 8 to replace those submitted by Sunrise and still get final approval from the town by year’s end. Related can’t afford to delay and risk the loss of its vested rights as well as East West Partners.

Sunrise appears to be in the catbird seat and likely will be made whole financially as well as achieve a very nice upside for all their pain and suffering at the hands of Related — Sunrise should come out just fine.

The town also has some newfound leverage arising from Related’s need for consent to the transfer of ownership to East West Partners. Since Related’s sole objective at this point is to cash out as quickly as possible, the town has an enviable opportunity to get all the protections it needs and requires as well as a pound or two of flesh for all the community’s pain and suffering during Related’s rocky tenure.

Hopefully our newest council members Bill Madsen, Alyssa Shenk and newly elected Tom Goode have been enlightened at the hands of Related and should now better understand the old adage, it’s never wise to ask how high when the developer says jump. Clearly Mayor Butler and Councilman Sirkus resisted falling into that trap. My only regret is I won’t have the pleasure of being part of the team that gets to negotiate Related’s exit terms.

Aspen Skiing Co. has been making the rounds in Aspen and Snowmass to tout its winter marketing and operational plans. Unfortunately their annual update is coming just as we’re learning that our upcoming ski season is likely to be a lot less vibrant and successful than last year.

It appears the increasing level of angst derives from unfavorable international monetary exchange rates, an off year for visits by large groups and a significant increase in competition from Utah and Lake Tahoe resorts. Skico’s marketing executives are trying to paint as rosy a picture as possible but even they acknowledge the head winds in front of us.

Many claim Skico’s lift ticket pricing plans are not competitive and may be magnifying the problems ahead by driving the cost of a ski vacation in the upper Roaring Fork Valley well above other resorts in our competitive set. Skico has gone to great lengths to disabuse us and our guests of the veracity of these claims but based on recent letters in our local papers and other anecdotal evidence, it appears Skico may just be blowing more smoke up our proverbial rear ends. Just claiming you’re competitive doesn’t make it so, particularly when you look at the packaging and deals available at other prime ski resorts.

On top of all this, Skico is finally getting its comeuppance in Snowmass after many years of complaints by local ski shop operators that have been suffering unfairly. For many years Skico has been receiving taxpayer support from the town’s marketing department for its “Kids Ski Free” and previously its “Perfect Storm” promotions, both of which favored Skico’s Four Mountain Sports retail and rental operations to the detriment of other operations.

Snowmass Tourism will no longer subsidize Skico’s noninclusive promotions. It plans to put its marketing dollars behind promotions that benefit our entire retail community, not just Skico — and it’s about time.

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