Snowmass Town Council still circling around the roundabout conundrum
Council discussion focuses on community impacts, information during budget review
A brief check-in on a proposed roundabout during budget review talks veered into a half-hour detour into the details of proposed intersection improvements at Owl Creek and Brush Creek roads during a long-haul Snowmass Village Town Council meeting Oct. 18.
There are $550,000 allocated in the proposed 2022 budget to help bring the roundabout from the current 30% design stage to the 50% mark.
The question, coming from Mayor Bill Madsen, was: “Is this something we’re going forward with?”
Council hasn’t totally landed on a solid answer to that just yet. For all the merits of the roundabout — better flow, pedestrian safety, traffic calming and access to emergency services are among the pros, and some infrastructure under the roadway has to be addressed anyways — there are still sticking points like community support and timing to address.
Councilman Tom Goode recognized the need for updates to the interaction at Owl Creek and Brush Creek Road. It’s “inevitable,” he said. But he has some reservations about spending more than half a million dollars for a roundabout design in 2022.
“I’m certain it’s going to help, there’s no doubt it’s going to help,” Goode said. “I’m just having a hard time deciding that $500,000 just for a design — doesn’t even mean anybody’s going to put a shovel in the ground yet — that’s a lot of money.”
Councilman Tom Fridstein, for his part, would like to see more information and have a thorough rundown of the project; as the newest member of the council, he’d like to get up to speed before heading too far down the road with designs.
But “I don’t think you can have a full discussion without a full design. … It’s taken us seven years to get to this 30% design, and we’re saying, ‘We think we’re right, we think we need to continue this forward, and it’s the right project,’” Town Manager Clint Kinney said.
Designs would take a year, possibly more, Kinney said. Moving forward would not lock the town into the project, but the designs would help address a lot of the council’s inquiries about infrastructure logistics, necessity and functionality of the roundabout.
And Councilman Bob Sirkus, who has long maintained hesitance about the necessity of the roundabout, questioned whether there’s substantial community support or even demand for the change. A 2019 community survey indicated the majority of respondents weren’t bothered by the intersection.
With those numbers in mind, Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk questioned whether user satisfaction should be driving whether the town moves forward. There are, after all, factors other than traffic, like pedestrian safety, infrastructure repairs and fire department access.
“This question keeps coming up: Does the community want this?” Shenk said. “But it goes back to my thing is, does the community really understand all the issues? … I’m not sure how well-informed people are to all the other issues that have to do with that intersection.”
In a similar vein, Kinney noted, “we need to have this design done so people can understand what the improvement would look like.”
Skirkus expressed concern of that perennial topic in Snowmass development conversations: community character.
“It’s another serious change to the character of the community,” Sirkus said, noting the impact that previous roundabouts like the one at Wood Road and Brush Creek.
It’s not necessarily a bad change, though, in the eyes of Shenk and Madsen.
“I think you’d be really hard-pressed to find someone who wishes it was the way it was before,” Shenk said of the improvements at those intersections.
“I would agree, those roundabouts changed the feeling of the community — to the better, in my opinion. … I think it’s about creating an atmosphere that is very welcoming and safe and makes it look like we know what we’re doing,” Madsen added.
Timing is also a factor, Sirkus said: why now and not later?
“It’s not going to get any better,” Kinney noted. And that community survey still had nearly a third of respondents who were dissatisfied, he pointed out.
“It’s like a Catch-22,” according to Shenk, who said she understands the concerns about the community. “I don’t want to look back five years from now and be like, ‘We should have done this already, it’s a nightmare.’”
“We can kick this can down the road or move forward,” Madsen added.
Madsen, Shenk and Goode were all in favor of the latter and taking the next steps in the design process; Sirkus and Fridstein were still reluctant, but the fund allocation will remain in the proposed budget for now.
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