Snowmass Village Town Council divided on priorities in Community Connectivity Plan |

Snowmass Village Town Council divided on priorities in Community Connectivity Plan

Pedestrian safety, connectivity are top-of-mind issues

The Sky Cab, or the skittles, sits unused during off season for maintenance while Snowmass Village endures construction and revamping for the summer season on Tuesday, March 4, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

You could call it a “can’t see the forest for the trees” conundrum: For years, discussions about the Snowmass Village Community Connectivity Plan have focused intently on the details of the 40-page document without reaching a consensus on the big-picture priorities that might help the plan come to fruition.

Conversations on both the details and the big picture continued at a May 3 regular meeting, when council provided input on the document that lists more than a dozen goals with a focus on connecting the town’s three commercial nodes (Snowmass Center, Base Village and the Snowmass Mall) and ensuring safety for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the village.

Council members all agreed on the need for connectivity and pedestrian safety in Snowmass Village, but how the town might achieve that goal using the connectivity plan remains a sticking point.

Ideas discussed at the May 3 meeting ranged from improvements to existing infrastructure (like the Skittles gondola and trails between Base Village and the Mall) to creating new walkways along Highline Road and the upper portion of Brush Creek Road, where pedestrians often walk along narrow road shoulders to reach their destinations. Council also touched on using a vertical easement on the One Snowmass property to build an elevator, stairway or other connection from ground level to Base Village.

The orange cabs on the sky cab lift, or lovingly known as the skittles, were disconnected for maintenance during he off season at the Snowmass Village Mall on Tuesday, March 4, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

“I don’t think there’s clarity amongst us on what the priorities should be,” Councilman Tom Fridstein said. Fridstein wanted to see more detailed designs and pricing on a concept level for some of the proposed ideas in the connectivity plan.

On the flip side, Councilman Bob Sirkus felt there was “too much detail” in the master plan.

“It’s one thing to say we need to improve an intersection. Period. We need to improve an intersection,” Sirkus said. “In a master document, I don’t think it’s necessary to list everything we think today should be incorporated to improve that intersection.”

And while Councilman Tom Goode said he thinks pedestrian safety is a top priority for the town, he wanted to see action on that matter regardless of when or how the connectivity plan is finalized.

“Quite frankly, I’m not convinced that pedestrian safety needs to be part of this connectivity plan. … I don’t think those things need to be on the priority list,” Goode said. “I think they just need to be done, then you start talking about the priorities.”

Goode expressed frustration with the long road to adoption for the connectivity plan; the plan itself has yet to be adopted by any serving council since the document came together in April 2016. Some pedestrian safety projects have already been completed, including a number of crosswalk improvements with flashing beacons throughout town, but even those took years and were at first met with resistance.

“We keep putting these different priorities in place, and we’ve been talking about and conferencing — we don’t need another sketch plan,” Goode said. “I think we need to concentrate on, ‘What is the priority?’ Community safety.”

The current council committed to adopting the Community Connectivity Plan when they finalized their goal statement in February; the 2019 goal statement also listed improving connectivity and pedestrian safety as a goal but did not explicitly list the adoption of the plan as part of that goal.

The draft is still a work in progress; town staff began working on the latest redline version after a council conversation during a work session in February and will continue to update the document.

“We prioritized the connections between the three commercial nodes. That’s kind of a little counter to what Councilor Goode’s saying, like, ‘hey, there’s other spots,’” Town Manager Clint Kinney said. “I don’t disagree one (bit), but we’ve got to start somewhere. We’re saying we think that’s probably the best place to start, but we can’t even start on that work until there’s agreement . … We don’t need a lot of detail, we just need to make sure we’re going down the right path.”

The latest changes include a note that the designs listed are “illustrative of potential solutions” and that adoption of the plan isn’t a commitment to use those designs; the draft also groups connectivity priorities into tiers rather than an item-by-item ranking. (Those priorities were inspired in part by community feedback and brainstorming sessions.)

It will take time for council and other town staff to get closer to pinpointing the priorities in the connectivity plan. But, as Kinney noted, time is part of the process.

“Sometimes it takes time, it takes ruminating, it takes those kinds of difficult discussions … to make sure we’re going down the right path,” Kinney said.

“We can keep working on this if it’s the right path, I just want to make sure we’re going down the right path.”

Town staff will continue to work on the document, taking council’s feedback from May 3 into account.

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