Roger Marolt: Bigger really could be better this time around
This will probably sound sarcastic considering my long history of anti-development in town, but I am actually serious: Why not let them build a new Town Center as big as they can afford, and then some?
I will get to the “and then some” later, but first, why does size matter when we are talking about this particular construction project?
If you enlarge a development on the side of a scrub-brushed hillside and there are no neighbors in the area to see it, can it make anyone’s eyes sore? If the new Snowmass Center ends up 200 feet tall, it still wouldn’t block anybody’s view of anything. The only neighbor is Town Hall and if the new project ends up looking like hell, I can think of no more just punishment than having our elected officials have to drive by it every day and then look at it out of their office windows as they eat brown bagged lunches from Clark’s Market at their desks from now through the end of forevermore.
Sure, the owners of the penthouse suites in Base Village might complain, if for no other reason than because they can afford to, but let them go ahead and bellyache all they want. The rooftop they will be yelling from is the one that set the precedent. If you live in a gigantic abomination of building code variances, you don’t throw fits about someone else bucking the system.
I don’t know about anyone else, but the biggest irony in the entire history of Snowmass Village, even greater than our double-digit sales tax rate primarily engineered to boost tourist dollars spent here, is the second-homeowner blowhard who once blew the horn louder than anyone in favor of the Base Village development who is now trying to use those same lungs to blow out the fire of development at Town Center and berate our elected officials for being too pro-development. It takes a lot of nerve to contradict one’s self that severely. All this and I still might let him off the hook if he would just stop using the term “the powers that be.” It’s not short for anything. In fact, it’s long for “our government.”
OK, shifting back into neutral; if there ever was a development site in all of Pitkin County where something huge could be built with little or no negative impact on residents and visitors alike, this plot where the Snowmass Center exits is that place. Even the elk wouldn’t care! This proposal for redoing the center fits perfectly with the super-sized character of the neighborhood. If anything, it will still look like a munchkin compared to the wicked witch to the south, but at least it will blend with the storyline.
With this thought in mind and no logically persuasive argument having been made against the increased size of the proposed development as of this writing, here’s the “and then some” I previously mentioned: I think we need to up the ante in size and scale to our benefit. I mean this literally. I say we approve the developers’ current proposal if, and only if, they add two floors of employee housing on top with anther level of community space (purpose to be determined later) sandwiched between. We are still searching for a large storage unit for mammoth bones somewhere in The Village. I think this could provide the first-class closet for those skeletons, and more; perhaps even a timeshare museum.
I am not even suggesting this as a punitive measure. In fact, I think it is perfectly legitimate for the town to pay the construction costs for my proposed top three floors to the new and greatly improved, if not massively expanded, Town Center. The town of Snowmass Village should not, however, have to pay anything for the underlying land the project is built on. Nor should any of the soft costs such as permitting fees, architectural costs, etc. be passed onto the taxpayers; just the brick and mortar expenses.
It continues to amaze me that the local powers that be (sorry, I couldn’t resist using this entirely irritating term just this once) do not see that the affordable housing shortage in the upper Roaring Fork valley continues to get more severe with every development project approved. It is the only result that can occur when developers are allowed to provide to the community anything less than housing for every employee that fills every new job opening their projects create. We will never fix this imbalance and the daily human hardships it causes if we don’t recognize this.
The bottom line is if a project requires more new employees than it can house, it is too big for our community and should not be approved. That is our yardstick for sustaining this quality of life.
Roger Marolt sees huge opportunity and higher rooflines at the Snowmass Center site. Email him at Roger@maroltllp.com.
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