Planning Commission begins review of changes to next Snowmass Base Village development phase

The model of the Snowmass Base Village project at their office in Snowmass. The project includes the Limelight Hotel, an ice rink, an outdoor climbing wall among several other building structures.

Planning Commission began reviewing a minor amendment to phase three of the 10-year, $600 million Base Village planned use development (PUD) project last week.

The amendment mainly focuses on creating a master development plan with guiding parameters for the last five Base Village and Viceroy Snowmass area buildings (10a, 10b, 11, 12 13b), along with a streamlined building- or site-specific approval process.

According to Andy Gunion, managing partner for East West Partners in Snowmass, the amendment does not alter any critical components of the original PUD plan like building height and total square footage, but allows for reasonable design flexibility and for moving toward the full completion of Base Village in a more efficient way.

“The overall goal of the amendment is to provide the town the certainty it wants on what we call the critical project attributes, like overall square footage, building height and employee housing ratios,” Gunion explained to the Planning Commission. “But meanwhile it also provides a reasonable degree of design flexibility in terms of what gets put in these buildings and exactly how they are configured.”

On May 20, Planning Commission met virtually to review the Base Village PUD amendment application, its first meeting since the COVID-19 crisis began in March.

Both Gunion and Julie Ann Woods, town community development director, gave brief presentations on the requested changes to the original PUD for the five mixed-unit residential buildings, which include:

Replacing existing “exact” unit counts, unit sizes and other absolute statistics with new minimum and maximum parameters (master development plan)

Maximum limits would be established for things like total square footage and floor area, building height and setbacks, equivalent units and maximum average unit size

Minimum limits would be established for open space, parking ratio, employee housing mitigation and minimum average unit size

Allow for the potential of making Building 13B, which is planned adjacent to Viceroy Snowmass, a 185-unit hotel extension of the Viceroy

Adjust lot lines so the “village pool” planned as part of Building 11 is more in the center of the Base Village development

Eliminate excess parking requirements

Extend vested rights to complete the full Base Village development another five years, giving developers until November 2029

Over the past three years, Gunion explained that Snowmass Ventures — the name for the collaborative developer group made up of East West Partners, Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners that owns Base Village — has been focused on completing the “core” of the village, which includes Limelight Snowmass, The Collective and both One Snowmass buildings; and “solidifying the Viceroy” as a premiere Snowmass luxury lodging option.

Now that the core is mostly finished and Viceroy facilities have been improved, Gunion said the developer team looks forward to this next development phase, setting the stage for the timely completion of an economically viable Base Village.

However, to ensure this timely and viable completion, Gunion and his team feel there needs to be more flexibility in the PUD plan to allow for changes in market trends and buyer preferences, along with a more streamlined approach to making minor architectural and design changes if needed.

That’s why the East West team is proposing an overarching master development plan and new real time, site-specific approval process. The plan would allow town staff to ensure each site or building aligns with the master plan parameters and council to review each building’s architectural plan for approval before developers could start construction — saving work and time for developers, the town and the Planning Commission.

“We’d submit building by building, lot by lot and go through a review process by town staff for compliance within the master development plan before it goes onto Town Council,” Gunion explained. He noted that there have already been six PUD amendments and more than 50 administrative modifications to the Base Village redevelopment over the years.

“This allows for real time design response to changes in market preferences and to allow for a more informed build out so we can react to things and adjust rather than come back and do a full PUD amendment every time.”

According to Woods, she and her staff started discussing this PUD amendment with Base Village developers about a year ago, and the application was submitted for town review in November.

Woods said the novel coronavirus pandemic delayed town staff’s review process by a few months, and acknowledged that the current situation highlights why Base Village developers want more flexibility moving forward.

“It can take up to a year to get through the amendment process and by the time you get through that process, the market may have changed,” Woods said on May 26. “For the most part, people want to see Base Village move ahead and get done. … There will still be restrictions but if we can provide flexibility I think it would provide success for the whole community and that’s important.”

Planning Commission recognized the desire for this flexibility, too. However, some members expressed at the May 20 meeting concerns with not having a more specific build-out timeline, along with creating a wall effect along Wood Road with the new, reoriented buildings and not including the Planning Commission in the proposed site-specific approvals moving forward.

“I’m concerned that Planning Commission is not involved in the (site-specific) architectural review,” said Planning Commissioner Jim Gustafson. “We have a broader range of expertise in reviewing architectural aspects so in general my thought is when it gets time to do an architectural review, it needs to run by the Planning Commission, not just Town Council.”

After a brief discussion, commissioners ultimately agreed that more time was needed to digest the extensive amendment application before any decision could be made.

Woods and the community development team will prepare a draft resolution for approval of the minor PUD amendment, which Planning Commission will review at its next meeting June 3.

Gunion also mentioned that Planning Commission will soon be presented with a minor amendment to the Woodrun PUD, which is for the proposed Fanny Hill townhomes project. Developers hope to start on the Fanny Hill project as soon as this fall, followed by Building 11 in spring 2021.