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Snowmass Town Council gets updates on master housing plan, recovery task force

A map showing the 21 sites identified as potential locations for future town workforce housing.
Town of Snowmass Village/courtesy photo

In just over an hour, Town Council received updates on the town’s master work force housing plan and the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force at its June 1 regular meeting. Here’s the recap:

WORKFORCE HOUSING UPDATE

Town staff updated council on its progress with creating a Housing Master Plan, which will look at how and where the town can most effectively “tuck in” more workforce housing units in the village.

According to Betsy Crum, town housing director, the plan is being completed in four phases: first, identify potential sites for additional affordable or workforce housing units; second, prioritize which sites could work best; third, create a schematic design of the sites “most likely to succeed”; and fourth, create a final housing plan report for council consideration.

Town staff from various departments began working on the plan with area designers, architects and land-use planners in early 2020, which is part of the town’s near-term goal of updating the housing regulations, identifying opportunities to partner and address senior housing needs, and exploring how the town could “tuck in” an additional 200 work force housing units (now 185 with the in-progress creation of the Coffey Place housing) in the village, Crum explained.

On June 1, Crum told Town Council that the master plan team is at the end of phase two and has identified 21 town-owned sites to look at more in-depth as potential locations for future town housing units. From these sites, the team then used a “site suitability matrix” with guiding criteria like buildable area, proximity to services, access to other transportation and community impact to then rank which sites would be best for workforce housing.

Crum said after putting each site through the matrix, the team identified five sites that should be prioritized for in-depth study first, as they were determined to have the best possibility of successful housing development and could serve as a guiding template when exploring some of the other potential housing sites. The top five sites are:

Two areas referred to as the “draw” and “point” sites, which wrap around Town Hall and would be considered one housing project;

The area right behind the town’s public works administration building back parking lot;

The town’s Carriage Way Apartment property and Lot 1 combined, considered as one housing project;

Three areas off Daly Lane, namely around Pokolodi Lodge and the Snowmass Inn, considered as one housing project;

Upper village parking Lots 10 through 12, considered as one housing project.

More in-depth design and study of these potential development areas will be completed during phase three, Crum said, including sketches of massing, unit capacity, parking, and a cost analysis.

When asked about building on some of the existing parking lots, Crum and Town Manager Clint Kinney said the town is not looking to take away any parking, and that any work force housing redevelopment contemplated as part of the master plan will look to make as minimal negative community impact as possible.

“Overall, we feel this is a really good opportunity to inexpensively explore these ideas,” Kinney said of the housing master plan. “We know some of these are stretches, but we really wanted to be thorough and comprehensive in the exploration and we think these five (sites) give a well-rounded opportunity to look at some different projects and set the stage moving forward.”

Town Council expressed general consensus with exploring the top five potential work force housing sites further. Councilman Bill Madsen also suggested looking into relocating the town’s “bus barn” from the Daly Lane area to behind the public works administration building to potentially create space for more units in the village core area.

“I think this is a high priority for the council and is a great exercise for us to go through,” Madsen said. “Hopefully when we come out on the other side we’re prepared for the next step.”

Town Council also approved the second reading of the ordinance that will allow the town to enter into a purchase contract with the Snowmass Inn owner, CA Loan I, LLC. The town will pay $200,000 in earnest for the inn and look into if closing on the full $6 million property would be a beneficial addition to its affordable housing portfolio.

ECONOMIC TASK FORCE, COVID-19 RESPONSE UPDATE

On the pandemic response front, Town Council received an update on what the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force is working on, along with other response efforts in play to help the village community.

In a brief presentation by Greg Smith, chair of the economic recovery task force, Kinney and Councilman Bob Sirkus (both task force members), the three men summarized some of the key ideas and initiatives in-progress to support and incentivize business in the village.

These ideas and initiatives include creating designated “pick-up” zones, namely in the Treehouse parking area, where people can drive up and grab their ordered food, beverages or other merchandise; establishing a sort of “picnic area” on Fanny Hill where people can enjoy food and beverages from local eateries; putting sanitation stations around the village to promote a safe, healthy town environment; launching a “shop local” marketing campaign, including a voucher program that supports Snowmass merchants; and expanding legal liquor license areas so restaurants can provide more outdoor seating and easier align with county public health requirements, as previously reported.

However, while all these ideas are in the works, the next main near-term focus of the task force is looking at the specifics of establishing a $200,000 voucher program that could potentially give residents, second homeowners, visitors and Aspen to Basalt area locals free money to spend at various Snowmass businesses.

“There’s some debate over how to market it, whether to make it available just to residents rather than broaden it to Aspen and downvalley… those are details being worked out as we speak by the marketing folks,” Smith said. “But we think it would be about a $25 program.”

Kinney added that the $200,000 would be taken from the $200,000 already budgeted this year for “product enhancement,” which he said is town money set aside for physical improvements to things like the Skittles sky cab.

“We thought that was an easy bank of funds to tap into immediately for this program,” Kinney said. “We’re really trying to put together a really good idea and make sure it’s marketed well, we don’t just want to throw something against the wall and see if it sticks. … We’re not trying to get it done fast, we’re really trying to get this done well.”

Town Council expressed agreement with the voucher program idea and gratitude toward task force participants for their hard work over the past several weeks.

Council members also talked about Snowmass’ free food distributions, which will continue through June and most likely through July, said Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk.

At the last food distribution May 29, Shenk said volunteers and Aspen Family Connections staff served 168 households, the largest number yet, and was able to get food to everyone but had none left over like in weeks past.

The next distribution day will be June 12 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Snowmass Town Park lot, and Aspen Family connections is accepting non-perishable food donations in the bin outside of Clark’s Market.

Council also discussed putting measures in place to ensure visitors and second homeowners are aware of all of the public safety requirements and shifted village business operations, which town staff said the tourism and marketing team is currently working on at both the local and county level.

mvincent@aspentimes.com


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