Planning OKs preliminary plan for new Snowmass Center |

Planning OKs preliminary plan for new Snowmass Center

A rendering of the planned Snowmass Center "main street."
Courtesy photo/Town of Snowmass

The Snowmass Planning Commission completed its preliminary review of the proposed Snowmass Center redevelopment and expansion project Sept. 11.

After 11 public hearings between March and September, Planning Commission members voted at their most recent meeting to accept the preliminary plan and rezoning for the redevelopment project, accompanied by 90 specified development conditions, moving it forward to Town Council.

The recent Planning Commission approval marks the next step forward in a yearslong process to expand, redevelop and modernize Snowmass Center, which town officials and planners envision as the future “Main Street” of the village.

“We want to make the development accommodating to tourists but more accommodating to the needs and desires of the local community,” said Brain McNellis, the town planner overseeing the Snowmass Center project.

The planned redevelopment for the Center includes a 4,436-square-foot expansion of “community serving” commercial and office space; the addition of an underground parking garage with more than 100 spaces; an atrium and increase in public meeting spaces; a new public transit facility; and renovations of the existing Center businesses, including the U.S. Post Office and Clark’s Market.

There also are 10 deed-restricted employee-housing units planned above the refurbished Clark’s Market, along with 68 free-market homes ranging from multi-family units to townhouses slated in and around the new Center.

According to town documents, the expansion of Snowmass Center means construction of new buildings, including most of the free market homes and two new mixed-use buildings south of the Center.

Each Snowmass Center building as planned will be required to match the “silver” Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED green building standard in an effort to make the redevelopment project sustainable.

The tallest building will be 51.5 feet tall, and a few others will exceed the 38-foot maximum building height and encroach on areas with a 30% grade slope, plan documents state.

Part of the new Center redevelopment also lies within the Brush Creek Impact Area, but does not affect the floodplain, wetlands or any known nesting or breeding areas, and the developers plan to create infrastructure that improves the quality of storm water flowing into Brush Creek.

According to McNellis, town staff and project planners attempted to create a new Snowmass Center that aligns with town goals established in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, increases vitality in the area and better meets the needs of the local community.

But the proposed project exceeds the “future buildout” identified for the area in the town’s comprehensive plan, triggering the “community purpose,” or benefit requirement for the planned development.

McNellis said the applicant plans to fulfill that requirement by setting aside large amounts of open space, working to upgrade the U.S. Post Office and potentially putting $750,000 toward a pedestrian bridge that would extend from the Snowmass Center area to Base Village.

Because this is a large project, McNellis said he and planners attempted to break each portion of the Snowmass Center project into “bite-sized” pieces for the Planning Commission to evaluate and discuss at each public hearing over the past several months.

At the commission’s Sept. 11 meeting, many members expressed concerns about the types of businesses that would be allowed on the first floor of the Snowmass Center, namely stating there needs to be a balance between offices and retail stores.

To address these concerns, the Planning Commission decided to adopt language that “grandfathers” in the current first-floor Snowmass Center businesses into street-level spots in the redeveloped center, too, but required the rest of potential first-floor tenants to be approved by Town Council.

Members also were concerned with not having enough space for larger trucks to load and unload at the redeveloped Snowmass Center dock areas, ultimately leading commission member Jim Gustafson to vote against the project altogether. “I just think the service is inadequate and I’m not going to support the project until that issue is resolved,” Gustafson said at the Sept. 11 meeting.

But Gustafson was outnumbered 5-to-1, moving the Snowmass Center preliminary plan forward to Town Council, which will determine if the proposed project goes onto the final planning application process.

McNellis said he hopes the preliminary plan will make it on a Town Council meeting agenda in early November, and commended the Planning Commission for its work on vetting the project.

“The planning commission did a great job reviewing this plan and getting in the trenches to make sure it said exactly what (the commission) wanted it to say before going on to Town Council,” McNellis said.