Blumenthal: Not holding breath for Base Village | AspenTimes.com
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Blumenthal: Not holding breath for Base Village

Mel Blumenthal
Second View
Mel Blumenthal

After a few weeks in sunny Santa Monica I’m looking forward to returning to Snowmass this week for part 2 of my annual winter fantasy — although it appears winter may be more a term of art than an actual fact this year.

While waiting for the snow gods to work their magic, let’s take a look at some other pressing local issues.

At the top of the list is the town’s review of Related’s proposed major amendment of its Base Village development plans, which were originally approved more than a decade ago but never anywhere near fully implemented.

For the time being Related appears highly motivated to substantially upgrade its development entitlements, likely in order to sell off the remaining portions of Base Village that it hasn’t not already entered into contracts on with Aspen Skiing Co. and the Sunrise Co. and then haul ass out of town as quickly as possible with pockets full of cash.

In the meantime, we’re left with a partially built eyesore in the middle of our resort community with no viable near-term date in view for the completion process to commence.

The voluminous stack of documents and diagrams they’ve submitted appears to put us back much closer to the beginning of the review process that we’ve agonized over since the beginning of this century than just making a few simple modifications to the development plans the town previously approved.

As a matter of fact, several members of the town staff also appear to be relishing this newfound opportunity for another bite at the apple.

In the meantime, we’re left with a partially built eyesore in the middle of our resort community with no viable near-term date in view for the completion process to commence.

Last summer Related tantalized our expectations reinforced by the then-sitting Town Council that cranes would arrive and hammers would be pounding away come spring. Alas that’s not to be nor will the remainder of 2015 see any signs of construction activity, and the way things are headed it’s highly questionable whether Related or any of its touted partners will remain motivated to stick around to start work in 2016 or thereafter. Reminder, Skico recently announced its plans to divert resources to commence construction this spring of a new Limelight Hotel in Sun Valley.

For its part Related is proposing lots of changes, some good, some not. Adding hotel rooms and fractional ownership to the residential mix should add much-needed vibrancy and economic vitality to the resort core and that’s good.

Reducing the previously approved amount of commercial space allocated to a diversified mix of food, beverage, retail and entertainment activities is not good.

Related’s attempt to justify the reduction with claims that our local merchants are suffering economic hardship is simply dishonest rhetoric, since Related well knows it’s responsible for the fact that the current residential/commercial mix is not up to what was originally approved. When the remaining residential units are built there should be plenty of action to go around to support all the previously approved commercial square footage. If we don’t end up with the required amount of diverse quality food, beverage, retail and entertainment facilities, we’re likely not to attract and retain the volume of visitors and residents needed to ensure and sustain our resort’s economic vitality.

Also not good is Related’s attempt to renege on the full extent of its community-purpose commitments, which were given to the town in exchange for a vast array of variances and modifications originally granted to the developer.

Its offer to provide currently existing space under yet-to-be-negotiated terms for a proposed Snowmass Discovery exhibition facility is only a beginning step in replacing Related’s obligation to provide a community aqua center, but clearly that’s not enough and perhaps not even the best location or the best physical facility for such an entity.

Also not good is Related’s continued delay in building an emergency medical clinic to replace the building they tore down in order to build the Viceroy.

Since early 2005 local emergency medical personnel have been working out of unacceptable “Third World” facilities off Daly Lane. They, along with the Snowmass fire and police chiefs, have been clamoring to rectify this egregious situation for many years, but Related just continues to kick that much-needed facility further and further down the road.

Connected to all of this is the never-ending discussion of the proposed Brush Creek/Wood Road roundabout, which no one in the community is supporting except several town staff members who’ve been claiming for years that the sky is falling and that we’ll all go to hell in a hand basket unless we get on with this project.

Spending in excess of $3 million to correct a minor problem that if it exists at all does so just a few days a year is a foolish and irresponsible waste of the economic resources Related is still willing to turn over to the town even if the roundabout is not built. I would imagine a couple of creative thinkers could come up with a viable fix that’s a lot less expensive and less intrusive than building an unnecessary roundabout the community clearly doesn’t need or want.

There’s lots more that’s not good, such as traffic flow, parking, pedestrian connections, employee housing, building design and construction phasing that also needs to be addressed.

As I said, don’t hold your breath waiting for the completion of Base Village anytime soon.

Your comments are welcome at secondview@earthlink.net


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