Council looks at feasibility of mall transit center; potential renewable energy rebate program
During a three-hour meeting March 2, Town Council covered a range of topics, including an update on Option 5 of the mall transit center and the potential for a town rebate program for people who commit to Holy Cross Energy’s PuRE program. Here’s the recap:
OPTION 5 FOR MALL TRANSIT CENTER ESTIMATED AT $9.8 MILLION
Town staff presented council with a feasibility study on the Option 5 design for the Village Mall transit center, including renderings of what the new hub could look like and its estimated cost of $9.8 million, about $1 million above the projected cost of Option 4.
Council saw a draft of the new option at its Feb. 10 work session, when town transportation director David Peckler and Town Manager Clint Kinney brought forth a the preliminary design plan that still includes a mall level Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Village Shuttle bus platform, along with a parking area beneath that will replace existing Lot 6.
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However, Option 5 differs from Option 4 in that it pulls the connecting road from Upper Brush Creek Road to Lower Carriage Way out from beneath the bus platform; shrinks the size of the platform, or deck by about 10 feet while still allowing for necessary bus bay and turning movements; landscape screening on the north side of the center and in Lot 5; and both adequate pedestrian connection to Brush Creek Road and commercial vehicle access to Daly Lane.
With the help of SEH architect Alex Jauch, who has helped the town with the transit center design and feasibility studies so far, Peckler and Kinney explained that Option 5 may be more expensive, but addresses the mass and scale issues expressed with Option 4 and is the plan staff are most confident in.
“I feel very confident that we’ve come up with a design that is very workable for the community,” Peckler said.
Peckler also highlighted that the town secured a $300,000 multimodal options fund grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation to continue design work on the mall transit center, an award that bodes well for the likelihood of receiving future state and federal funding for the project.
But despite the positives of the Option 5 design, Town Council still expressed concerns with ensuring pedestrian safety as locals and visitors navigate across the proposed bus platform and below on Carriage Way, and questioned whether the town is moving too fast with so many projects all at once.
“I’m starting to hear from the community that we’ve got so many projects up on the deck that we’re considering,” said Mayor Markey Butler, listing off several town projects under consideration. “We’re getting to the point where Town Council is getting fatigued with so many projects.”
“I’m in (Mayor Butler’s) camp. …The comp plan says ‘Just Big Enough.’ Well where are we going with this?” added Councilman Tom Goode. “We have so many projects coming up, how much can this community put up with?”
In response, Peckler noted that he’s been working on a new design for the mall transit center since 1986, emphasizing the yearslong hashing and rehashing of a design for the proposed local and regional hub.
Kinney said town staff wants to be sure council is very confident with design before they take the next project leap, which would move the transit center forward more definitely and most likely result in construction by spring 2022.
“This is why I wanted to make sure we took our time on this discussion. If you recall, there was a unanimous vote to approve Option 4, but the hesitation was clear,” Kinney said.
“Because of that hesitation, you got this and I think this plan is tremendously better… we are listening and we are doing the best we can but if the council says stop, we need to know that.”
After over an hour of discussion and several public comments, including sentiments of general support of the new transit center from Aspen Skiing Co. and Romero Group representatives, Town Council decided to mull over moving forward with Option 5 until their March 16 meeting when discussions on next steps will continue.
TOWN INTRODUCES FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY REBATE PROGRAM
The last discussion item for Town Council on March 4 was the potential for a renewable energy rebate program that would reward all locals for participating in Holy Cross Energy’s PuRE program and help the town reach its 20% reduction of carbon emissions by the end of 2020 goal.
According to Travis Elliott, assistant town manager, the town is projected to fall just short of the goal, leading staff to pursue a renewable energy rebate program targeted for the top village emitters, incentivizing them to join the PuRE program, which which allows town governments, businesses and individuals to become 100% clean-energy users by choosing to pay for a renewable energy source that offsets their non-renewable energy usage, as previously reported.
HCE is supplied by 41% renewable energy, meaning PuRE program participants are responsible for offsetting the remaining 59% with renewable energy like wind, hydro or solar, according to the company website.
The town rebate program would reimburse 50% of the PuRE program premium costs for one year using money from the Renewable Energy Commercial Rebate (REOP) fund, which is made up of fees paid in lieu of meeting the town’s renewable and energy efficiency standards when carrying out a new development project.
The top three Snowmass emitters are Skico, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District and the town of Snowmass Village. The town is already a part of the PuRE program, but if the other two top emitters would join the renewable energy offset program as well, Elliott and town manager Clint Kinney feel the village would more than meet its emissions reduction goal.
However, some Town Council members expressed concern with only targeting Skico and the water and sanitation district, as the rebate money would be taken from a town fund aimed at promoting renewable energy generation and building efficiency for the entire village, meaning all locals should have an oppotunity to be involved.
“I think we should move forward with the commercial we’ve identified right now but I’d like to see a plan in action for the residentials,” Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk said. “We did set the goal and it seems like it’s achievable so I think we should move forward.”
After some discussion, council asked staff to look into the official definition of the REOP fund and its intended uses, to bring Skico and Snowmass Water and Sanitation into the conversation and to open the rebate program up to all local residents and businesses interested in participating, which Kinney and Elliott agreed to.
Town staff will present council with a formal budget amendment approving the rebate program to vote on later this month.
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