Town Council continues to focus on height, denisty of Snowmass Center redevelopment
In early November, Town Council began its quasi-judicial review of the proposed redevelopment plan for the Snowmass Center.
Brought forth by Design Workshop and Eastwood Snowmass Investors, the group that owns the current center, the redevelopment includes an additional 16,646 square-feet of “community serving” commercial space, 78 multi-family residential units (68 free market, 10 deed-restricted), and other significant renovations to parking, public transit and existing center businesses in the 11-building proposal.
Over the past two months and a handful of public hearings, Town Council has focused its review of the proposal on a few key areas: height, density and viewplanes. And according to Brian McNellis, the town senior planner overseeing the center project, this prolonged focus is about just what he expected.
“Large developments never go without controversy,” he said. “It takes a long time to tackle each issue and topic so we just try to chip away one piece at a time.”
McNellis also said it’s important for the public to understand that Planned Unit Development, or PUD project applications, which the center redevelopment is proposed as, are inherently complicated.
In a nutshell, the PUD process aims to allow for variations from the strict application of certain standards of the town’s zoning districts so project applicants can exercise creativity and increase community value, according to town documents.
With PUD processes come lengthy reviews by town staff, the planning commission and Town Council, as McNellis touched on, to determine whether the requested variances should be approved and if other community value-related conditions must be put in place.
At the recent Town Council review discussion Jan. 21, council members rehashed previously expressed concerns, including the redeveloped center buildings exceeding the town’s 38-foot height limit and 100% build out for the center area; the limited downvalley views and wall effect the proposed buildings could create for Woodbridge Condominiums tenants; and the need for a clarified parking plan.
On Jan. 6, council members asked the applicant to look at reconfiguring the project so that it fit within the 38-foot height limit and to bring back renderings of what a Woodbridge Condominiums tenant would see from their home when looking toward the center.
In a roughly 30-minute presentation Jan. 21, which Town Council asked be shortened moving forward, Design Workshop’s Richard Shaw and Jessica Garrow showed the Woodbridge Condominiums viewplanes and expressed that the redevelopment project would not be viable if they were to work within the 38-foot height limit set for the center area.
“There is greater than 38 feet in each of the buildings as the result or topography and the result I have to suggest to you is that 38 feet leaves the center as it is today,” Shaw explained Jan. 21.
“There isn’t a redevelopment plan that we find viable that would make it possible to create a project with a strict application and no variance to height greater than 38 feet.”
But Town Council still voiced that the requested height- and density-related variances may be too much.
“I’m not where you are in justification for 100% (build out),” Mayor Markey Butler said to the applicant on Jan. 21. “There’s not a lot of support here for the density, that needs to reduced and reduced considerably.”
More directly, Butler and the two other council members present Jan. 21 said they were more comfortable with higher height variances in the proposed buildings backing up to the ridgeline behind the current center, but uncomfortable with the density and heights of the buildings off of Lower Kearns Road and adjacent to the existing condominiums.
“Those buildings have the greatest blockage of views looking downvalley,” Councilman Bill Madsen said. “It’s important to have that real open feeling and it just feels pretty tight in there.”
A week after the Jan. 21 hearing, Shaw and Garrow said they don’t have a reponse to Town Council’s concerns and questions about the height and density of the redevelopment project yet, but emphasized that they’ve worked hard to listen and act on the town’s feedback.
The Design Workshop officials also said they feel it is important for the redevelopment project to be looked at in its entirety as a mixed-use, 100% Snowmass neighborhood versus separate buildings, and for locals to understand that PUD projects with similar variance requests are not uncommon in the village.
“Redevelopment is essential to take what is a 40-year-old building and make it much more functional,” Shaw said. “There is a place here for some disagreement between Town Council and the applicant and we hope to continue talking about these various topics within the bigger idea here.”
While Shaw, Garrow and McNellis acknowledged there may be a long road of discussion ahead once Town Council decides on what height and density it may be comfortable with for the Snowmass Center redevelopment, McNellis emphasized that the public hearings are the best place for locals to share their opinions with council and weigh in on what they hope to see with the project.
“For projects like this that have a significant impact on the town, these hearings are a really good opportunity for people to come forward and voice their support or nonsupport for the project,” McNellis said.
The next Snowmass Center redevelopment review and public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18 at 4 p.m.
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