Snowmass Base Village foes press for vote | VailDaily.com

Snowmass Base Village foes press for vote

Steve Benson/Aspen Correspondent

Despite reductions to the overall size of Base Village, many in Snowmass Village are still not satisfied, and they’re trying to take the issue to a public vote.

The Citizens for Responsible Growth – or, CRG – has been concerned with the size of Base Village from the beginning. The group submitted a petition to the town clerk Thursday, with 68 signatures more than the required 174. If certified, the petition could force voter approval on Base Village since the height, size and density exceed certain limits outlined out in the town’s comprehensive plan.

“It gives the voters a chance to have a say on the final product,” said Jack Hatfield, a member of the CRG steering committee.

Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester said he feels CRG is making a mistake submitting a petition this early in the process.

“Let the Council go along with doing what they were elected to do,” Manchester said. “If you [disagree] in the end, then put the issue up to a referendum.”

Manchester has repeatedly stressed the review of Base Village is still in the early stages, and an official decision on the issue may still be several months away.

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The size of Base Village, as proposed, runs up against a number of the size and scale limits in the town’s comprehensive plan. The Town Council has the authority to approve projects up to, but not exceeding, 115 percent of the density and 160 percent of the height allowed in the comprehensive plan.

Until this week, the proposal exceeded 196 percent of density, and 263 percent of height.

Intrawest and Aspen Skiing Co. are partners in the project, which originally was comprised of 635 condos, 10 townhomes, 180 employee units, 184,000 square feet of nonresidential space (including between 50,000 and 70,000 square feet of restaurants and retail) and parking for 1,100 cars around the base of Fanny Hill. It also included 20 homesites in nearby Sinclair Meadows.

Intrawest announced at the Dec. 15 council meeting that they were willing to reduce residential space from 850,000 square feet to 615,000, with the number of units slashed from 635 to 585.

Following that meeting, Manchester said, “We’ve got a long way to go, but this is a great place to start reviewing the project as a whole.”

Hatfield, however, said those numbers are still violating the towns comprehensive plan, and he wasn’t impressed with Intrawest’s effort.

“They’re not really serious about reducing the mass and scale of the project,” Hatfield said. “It was a superficial attempt, a dog-and-pony show.

“They have done so little that you will hardly tell the difference,” he added.

If the petition is certified, the Council has two options. The first is to accept the petition and comply with its provisions, which Hatfield believes is highly unlikely. The second is to turn the issue over to a public vote, which must be held within 30 to 90 days after the council makes their decision. The time frame the Council has to make that decision is somewhat of a gray area, Hatfield said.

“At some juncture the Council will be faced with setting an election 30 to 90 days out,” Hatfield said. “We’re not sure when the time starts clicking on that.”

But Hatfield sid he hopes the Council will make the issue a priority, and schedule the vote during the ski season, not the offseason in late spring when many local residents are out of town.

“[The Town Council] can show a lot of integrity by setting [the vote] before the ski season ends,” Hatfield said. “We want everyone to have a chance to vote on this.

“We believe that the soul of Snowmass Village is at stake here, and ultimately, regardless of the challenge, the people will see the light and support us,” he said. “The community needs people to stand up for it, and this is the best present we could give the community.”

Manchester, however, thinks the petition may have a permanent negative impact on the community.

“It would affect all projects in the future,” Manchester said. “Essentially, it makes it impossible to do any changes and additions to any of the existing structures along the mall area.”