Bones don’t belong in Base Village |

Bones don’t belong in Base Village

Mel Blumenthal

It’s an El Niño summer in Snowmass with plenty of time to kill during our frequent rain storms. Luckily the alignment of global climate change and the pent-up demand of local developers give us the opportunity to wrap our minds around several significant village development projects in between our interrupted outdoor recreational pursuits.

First at bat is Related’s long-awaited preliminary plan application for the completion of Base Village. Consisting of hundreds of mind-numbing lawyerly written pages, exhibits, attachments and pretty drawings spread out over several volumes, the key issues can be boiled down to just a few that the community needs to come to grips with. Town staff, the Planning Commission and Town Council can deal with all the other small but important details without most of us getting all worked up.

Tinkering with Related’s community purpose obligations is at the top of the key issues list.

Inasmuch as the town already has a fully functioning recreation center including a huge pool complex, there’s no need for another similar community facility in Base Village. As a matter of fact, the current facility at our entryway is not anywhere near reaching its full capacity so another similar nearby facility would be counterproductive. Thus the conversation over recent months has boiled down to replacing the previously approved Base Village aquatic center with a permanent exhibition and educational facility to house the ice age discovery artifacts along with sufficient space and facilities for their audio/visual presentations, large group lectures, educational classes, etc.

In its recently submitted application Related has offered to expand its initial offer to the town of a large chunk of cash so the town could build its own Discovery Center on land outside of Base Village with the alternative option of dedicating one of its currently approved but unbuilt buildings in the central core of Base Village to this community purpose. Although Related would cover the cost of building the shell of the new building, Snowmass Discovery would be obligated to raise the multi-millions it will require to build out and furnish the interior of the building as well as raising something in the neighborhood of $5 million for an operating endowment. But at the end of the day there would only be sufficient space to exhibit the artifacts and some small office and administrative facilities. There would not be adequate space for the rest of the required and desirable adjunct facilities.

In my opinion the better alternative for Snowmass Discovery and the town is Related’s offer of cash so that a purpose-built iconic facility on town-owned land, such as the Point Site, could be built accommodating the needs of both Snowmass Discovery as well as a community performing arts center for film, theater, dance and music, which would be synergistically compatible and sufficiently large enough to provide the necessary adjunct audio/visual facilities, classroom and meeting space required for a viable and sustainable exhibition/ educational facility.

Under this alternative, Snowmass Discovery would still have to raise a huge chunk of cash, but it’d likely be much more successful in their efforts by appealing to a broader contributing base than just those interested in our ice age discovery. A multi-use facility accommodating a broad menu of attractions is much more likely to attain and sustain success over the long haul than a modest single purpose attraction that’s subject to periodic changes in the interests and attention of our residents and guests.

The Toll Brothers, current owners of the Snowmass Club, are the newest developers to hit town. They’d like to build an unspecified number of residential units on the golf course and to relocate the impacted holes to what is currently open space fronting the Horse Ranch and Two Creeks residential developments.

In their attempt to sweeten the community’s response, they’re trying to hitch their wagon to the stream of good will generated by the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District and the Snowmass Chapel, both of which have shown little, if any, interest in playing in the Toll Brothers sandbox.

They’re also attempting to mine more good will by offering an expansion opportunity to Anderson Ranch. Unfortunately for the Toll Brothers, the Ranch and its Board have never generated much in the way of good will in our community.

They’ve never made any effort to become an integrated part of our community; they remain an exclusive and isolated island in our midst. Since they’ve done nothing over the years to endear themselves to the community, I doubt the community will have much, if any, interest in supporting their expansion desires by allowing the Toll Brothers to develop land that’s been traditionally preserved as appealing open space.

With all the new residential units coming on line in Base Village over the next few years as well as Aspen Skiing Co.’s Fanny Hill Townhomes, there’s no apparent need for any more high-end housing on the golf course, particularly when it’s likely to foul up the attractive greenbelt in the heart of our community.

The issue of expanding the golf course onto surrounding open space has been debated over the years and it’s impacted by various restrictions, reservations, lots of local politics and community angst, which I’ll expound upon if and when the Brothers decide to file a development application.

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