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Roger Marolt: Too late is not better than never

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt for the Snowmass Sun
Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun

I think it is what any reasonable person would have expected. We’re going to get a super-size redo of the town center up there, whether we like it or not.

The truth of the matter is most of us probably don’t even really care what they build up there now. Fifteen years ago, the developers would have been in for a battle. Today, its approval will most likely be made with a rubber stamp in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. There’s no chance of any hard-fisted table pounding resulting in coffee stains on the blueprints this time around.

I call it “up there” because it’s a part of our town in name only. Nobody lives “up there.” Nobody hangs out “up there.” It’s like an amusement park inside of a town. Same size. Same shape. Give it the smell test and it comes up cotton candy. You go up there a couple times a year when friends are in town to give them a look at it. Other than that, I don’t know. It doesn’t hold much interest or purpose for me.

“Up there” is the place developers told us would make a bunch of money for all of us. Remember? “All boats float in a rising tide?” I do. Now it is obvious; that supposed tide ended up being a tsunami caused by the earth-moving endeavor we mundanely call Base Village. It washed away our identity.

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Nearly a decade-and-a-half of on-again, off-again fits and starts of activity have left our senses dulled by a perpetual haze obscuring the clarity we once thought we had about what this all meant to our town and us. I can’t bring that vision back up in the archives of my memory. I recall the good times and the painful ones of my life, but over Base Village all I’m drawing is blanks. I am convinced it will be the ultimate monument to blasé for me. I hope it blossoms for others.

The thing we should have known, but were clearly distracted from while focusing on what 1 million square feet of development would eventually look like, was how the project would dwarf everything existing around it and, more importantly, how it would set a new scale for everything within a surveyor’s sight of it in the future.

As sort of charming in the way yokels get accustomed to places they have gathered throughout all stretches of their times, Snowmass Center looks completely out of place perched on the hillside; a wimp of a structure impotently staring down Base Village for blocking its views. It has to go. And it has to go now, character and all.

There is no practical basis for keeping the new Center small. It wouldn’t compete with the monstrous bully across the roundabout. And, there’s no logical basis one can argue to keep it reasonably sized, either. How can we tell the Center developers that they can’t go six stories high and trim back their employee housing “obligation” after we pretty much dispelled any myths that our building code was a serious, binding document after the Base Village approval, amendment, reapproval and more amendments? Nobody believes a book that has been thrown out the window is anything but trash.

If we haven’t passed the point of no return on keeping this place from becoming another Beaver Creek, I cannot come up with another explanation for Base Village. When you allow a development that encompasses and obliterates what appears to be at least a quarter of what was the former town you sort of remember, where exactly would you say is the point to return to?

All in, what would you estimate Base Village takes up in a measurement we can put into perspective? Is it four or five city blocks? Now imagine if a development of this scale was done in Aspen. If Aspen is four times as big as Snowmass Village, that would be a development consuming around 16 blocks there. What even is that? Would it be like building Caesar’s Palace and the MGM Grand over Paepke Park? If that was the case, a project like Gorsuch Haus would not have been a hotly debated issue as much as an excuse for a coffee break at City Hall.

I know there are people around who supported Base Village when it was approved in the times beyond my clear memory and, now that they have seen the fruits of their support realized, have become adherents of less is better. They are rallying for a smaller Center plan. To one of them I remarked, “better late than never.” I may have been wrong about that. Too late is not much different than never.

Roger Marolt doesn’t see any point in coming down early from skiing to get ready for the next Town Council meeting. Email him at roger@maroltllp.com.


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