Snowmass Town Council talks broadband regulations, Town Park redesign
At its Sept. 14 work session, Snowmass Town Council talked through how it should pursue baseline policies and development guidelines for new broadband infrastructure, like small cell towers and 5G networks, and the final draft design for the Snowmass Town Park reconfiguration project. Here’s the recap:
POTENTIAL BROADBAND SERVICE POLICIES, GUIDELINES IN SNOWMASS
For the first hour of the work session, council members and town staff talked through the strategies and policies Snowmass Village could pursue to regulate broadband service in town, hinging on one question: How involved does the town want to be in broadband service development and regulation?
David Zelenok and Ken Price of HR Green Inc., a consulting firm out of Denver, walked through how other Colorado municipalities are answering that question.
As Zelenok presented to council in November, in the telecommunications world if a person has broadband capabilities it means they have high-capacity transmission of digital information at a high rate of speed.
These broadband capabilities are evolving and advancing rapidly as bandwidth demand increases across the country, moving toward smaller, more numerous “small cells” placed closer together versus large cell towers placed miles a part; 5G, which offers even greater, faster digital capacity; and advanced “wireline” broadband delivered through “hard-wired” connections to the worldwide web utilizing fiber optic technology, as previously reported.
Recent legislation and FCC mandates have made it so local governments can’t deny an application to install small cell towers within the public right of way, and local authorities must review and approve these applications within a certain time frame.
Zelenok and Price said it’s only a matter of time before the town is hit with a “tsunami” of these applications and requests. But to ensure these small cell towers and 5G technology isn’t just installed wherever and however, the consultants said local governments like Snowmass Village can create regulations and policies to maintain a significant amount of authority with these broadband advancements, addressing concerns related to aesthetics, high-speed availability and public safety.
“There is no right or wrong answer in this,” Zelenok said to council Sept. 14. “It really depends on what you all see the future of and what role if any the town of Snowmass Village should play in creating your own both 5G telecommunications and fiber optic projects.”
Zelenok and Price said the town could choose to create a master plan that takes a variety of approaches to regulating future broadband developments, like creating a full municipality owned and operated broadband model; a publicly owned, privately serviced model; or hybrid ownership and service model.
In looking at a survey all five Town Council members and three senior town staff members took part in, council aligned with a more outsourced service model. Council also feels future broadband service should be ubiquitous, affordable, have consistent speeds and performance, and potentially include some town financial support.
After going over these survey results and Zelenok’s and Price’s presentation, members asked several questions to better understand what broadband technology is and how it would potentially be set up in Snowmass Village.
Ultimately, council said they feel small cells should not be very visible or prominent in Snowmass Village, with as much of the new infrastructure placed underground as possible.
“That is one of the values of why so many of us look at Snowmass to purchase a home because we don’t have those wires overhead and stuff,” Mayor Markey Butler said. “There’s a lot of intrinsic value of not seeing that.”
Based on council’s feedback and the recent survey results, Zelenok and Price said they would craft a draft of small cell policy and design standards, develop public policy recommendations, map where priority small cells would need to be placed town-wide, and bring back cost figures and potential outside funding sources for council review at a meeting later this year.
MOVING FORWARD WITH REDESIGN OF SNOWMASS TOWN PARK
During the second half of the recent work session, Town Council gave staff the go ahead to move forward with finalizing the current draft of the Snowmass Town Park redesign project.
This allows town staff to work with consultants to complete the final planning documents for the project, which will include more detailed design, estimated costs and a phasing plan.
At the Aug. 19 regular meeting, Andy Worline, director of parks, open space, trails and recreation, and Connect One designers briefly presented the current, final draft design of the long-running project, mainly focusing on the proposed wetland recreation area that would include a beach, swimming, fishing and other gathering area access at the pond.
On Sept. 14, Worline talked through the draft further, which had been tweaked since the last meeting to double the size of the proposed parks maintenance and storage area and move the Snowmass Rodeo arena about 20 feet to allow for better storage of its materials, and includes 64,000 additional feet of field space; 427 paved summer parking spaces and about 600 total paved and unpaved winter spaces utilizing the rodeo arena area; a bike skills trail; new restroom facilities; and new covered picnic structures.
“What we’re looking for is (feedback from you) on are we going in the right direction,” said Town Manager Clint Kinney of the final Town Park design draft. “The fundamental issue ends up being the same every time we talk about it; we’re trying to put 10 pounds of stuff in a 5-pound sack. … We think we’ve got 7 pounds jammed into that 5-pound sack and we think we’ve done it in a pretty responsible way to meet most of the goals of the POSTR Board and most of the goals of the council.”
While council expressed general consensus with the direction the design is headed and approval of the improved wetland recreation area, members brought up concerns with the Snowmass Rodeo area, questioning why its only other purpose was presented as additional parking in the winter and if the town should be encouraging more skiers to park in the village versus at the Brush Creek Park and Ride.
“When we were looking at the original five layouts, it’s my recollection that one of the concerns of some of the proposals that we didn’t like was that there was too much parking, and it seems to me we’re just going back to that,” Councilman Bob Sirkus said. “I realize that you’re trying to find a multi-use purpose for (the rodeo arena) because we’ve asked for that and parking is one, but I just wish there was a better one.”
Addressing this parking concern, transportation director David Peckler said between 500 and 600 cars were consistently parked in the Town Park area last winter, and that even though he’s a “bus guy” he feels some increased parking is a much needed amenity that will only help boost the village economy.
“Your ability to manage some of things you want to do to stimulate the economy are facilitated by this facility,” Peckler said, noting that increased reliance on the Brush Creek Park and Ride also would drive up public transportation costs and overload an already nearly at-capacity system.
Kinney and Police Chief Brian Olson echoed Peckler’s thoughts, noting that the town isn’t looking at drastically adding more parking but that there needs to be a balance between increasing parking access and incentivizing people to use the public transit system.
Kinney also emphasized that with the redesign and shift of the proposed Snowmass Rodeo, the area could serve as more than just parking and a rodeo arena with lots of possibilities.
But while Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk and other council members said they understand that demand for parking in the village is increasing and there needs to be some increases, Shenk wants to know exactly how multi-purpose the rodeo arena can be — with more information on how the area could be utilized for parking sometimes and other events and activities other times.
“I think it would make me more comfortable knowing that it’s not just going to be a parking lot,” Shenk said. “Yes, on some days it’s going to just be a parking lot, but on a lot of days when the mountain is not busy it could be multi-use and we could give it to tourism to book something neat out in the wintertime.”
Kinney said he’d work with tourism staff and come up with a list of specific potential events and activities that could take place in the area during the late summer/fall, winter and spring seasons.
Overall, Town Council said the design is moving in the right direction and gave town staff the go ahead to start on the final planning documents for the project, which will be presented to council in the near future for approval.