Snowmass Condominium Associations Formally Request Town Abandon Nearby Housing Plans

Snowmass Condominium Associations Formally Request Town Abandon Nearby Housing Plans

Several condominium associations in Snowmass Village that asked the town to abandon plans for proposed workforce housing developments near its condos formally requested the town amend its housing master plan to abandon the developments.

In January, attorneys representing the Laurelwood Condominium Association sent a letter to town staff and Snowmass Town Council members requesting the town abandon the upper parking lots, which currently serve as skier parking spaces near the Snowmass Mall as potential housing development sites. The development of 78 housing units in three of the five upper lots were proposed as potential housing development sites in the Snowmass housing master plan, which the Town Council approved in 2021. The housing master plan was recognized as an important undertaking for the town in the 2018 comprehensive plan.

Formally abandoning the numbered lots as housing development sites would require an official amendment to the housing master plan, which would undergo review from the planning commission and Town Council. 

After several meetings between town staff and representatives of the owners’ associations of the Timberline, Sonnenblick, Interlude, Aspenwood, and Laurelwood condos, the associations formally submitted a request for amendment of the housing master plan to the town on March 12, with a petition signed by 221 condo owners opposing the development.

“Due to negative impacts on the community and the town’s prior commitments regarding the upper numbered lots, the associations believe the town should not pursue this site,” the request to the town states.

The request will now go to the planning commission, where it will need to determine if it agrees with the recommendation to amend the housing master plan. The planning commission will submit its recommendation to the Town Council, which will have to vote on whether to amend the housing master plan if commissioners recommend the change.

The master plan identified several sites as viable opportunities to expand the housing stock, including a plot next to the public works facilities on Owl Creek road, along Daly Lane, and the contested site at the upper numbered parking lots, specifically lots 10-12. Approval of the housing master plan did not inherently approve the projects themselves, but it serves as a road map to meeting the town’s housing goals. 

The proposed development of the parking lots in the housing master plan aims to maintain the existing 320 parking spaces in lots 10-12, while building 78 one- and two-bedroom apartment units and additional resident parking.

The condo associations argued that developing the upper numbered lots would have significant adverse effects on the community and that it is inconsistent with the town’s obligations to the surrounding properties, according to the formal request submitted to the town by attorneys with Garfield & Hecht. The Aspen Times obtained the letter through the Colorado Open Records Act.

“The proposal provides inadequate parking to accommodate the additional beds. The upper numbered lots provide much-needed parking to guests in several hundred condominium units and hotel rooms and to the employees providing services to those properties,” according to the request. “As the housing master plan identifies, any proposed development must maintain the existing 320 parking spaces. However, the housing master plan suggests adding only 69 spaces for 130 bedrooms, less than what is required under the well-established and enforced municipal code development requirements.”

The upper numbered lots development proposal includes 26 one-bedroom units and 52 two-bedroom units, 130 bedrooms total. The proposal includes 89 additional parking spaces; the parking ratio does not meet current zoning requirements (It is approximately half the code minimum), but the site is suited for a lower parking ratio due to its proximity to transit at the Snowmass Mall, according to the housing master plan. The site would require a parking alternative plan that allows less than one parking space per bedroom, but the 320 existing spaces would remain, Town Manager Clint Kinney said.

The plan proposes keeping public parking below the residential building, which would be altered in favor of angled parking to maximize spots.

Dave Jacobsen, president of the Laurelwood board of directors, said residents would park in one of the 320 public spaces if there wasn’t enough room in the residential parking for the units.

“Those employees living there would take those parking spots, and then we’d be out of parking,” he said.

The condo associations also argued that the cost of upper numbered lot developments – which is the most expensive of the five proposed developments in the plan and would cost an estimated $73.5 million to develop – would likely exceed $100 million. They pointed to the Draw Site project in Snowmass, which the master plan estimated would cost $62 million — the development is currently undergoing an extensive planned unit development process and is expected to cost $80 million.

“Given the rapidly escalating cost of the ongoing Draw Site project, which appears to now exceed $80 million, or some 20% higher than stated in the housing master plan, the associations question whether the town could develop this location at a reasonable cost,” according to the request.

It is unclear what the development would ultimately cost. Development has not started on the proposed 78 housing unit on lots 10-12, but the site was identified as one of the highest suitable sites in town to use for workforce housing because of its proximity to the mall and the grading infrastructure already in place. Kinney said there was no timeline for development on the upper numbered lots because the town is focusing on the Draw Site PUD. 

The condo associations also argued that construction in that location would create “several years of environmental and community disturbance while construction progresses,” would increase traffic on Carriage Way, impact the quality of life of visitors and residents, and would reduce property values in the Upper Village. 

The lots are owned by the town and not the condo associations, which all sit adjacent to the parking lots. 

In the original letter to the town in January, and echoed in the formal request, the condo associations said the town cannot change the use, number, access, or proximity of the upper parking lots without their consent. They cited a 1967 town declaration, a 1978 agreement between the town and what was at the time the Snowmass Resort Association, and a 2006 group sales agreement between the town and the Snowmass Village Resort Association (the successor to the Snowmass Resort Association).  

The 1967 West Village general declaration obligated the SRA to maintain parking areas and provided property owners and their guests a right of access to and use of the parking areas. The 1978 agreement transferred lots 1-13 to the town and required that “the land (the town) received from SRA would continue to be used as it had been in the past, including for parking lots, and that parking lots would not be closed or changed in character ‘unless mutually agreed upon,'” according to the associations’ request.

The 2006 group sales agreement obligated the town to provide “permanent access” to parking to properties adjacent to the parking lots. Under the agreement, the town also said it would notify all adjacent property owners of any proposed development that would change the current use of the lots, the associations said. 

According to the 2006 group sales agreement, the condo associations argue, if a majority of adjacent owners opposed a proposed development of the lots, it would require three-fourths of the Town Council to approve moving forward with the development.

The town frequently told representatives of the condo association that employee housing was a priority for the town, Jacobsen said. During presentations for the Draw Site project, Snowmass Housing Director Betsy Crum frequently told council members that the affordable housing situation in Snowmass is dire. 

The associations’ request urged the town to explore other sites instead of the upper numbered lots.

Doing so, though, is “not in the best interest of the community,” Kinney said.

In the petition signed by over 200 condo owners, which The Aspen Times also obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act request, several owners echoed concerns about parking, road congestion, and property values.

The development “would destroy the value of my property,” one owner wrote. 

“Why does employee housing need to be this close to the mountain?” another said. 

“Make use of the options in the surrounding area for employee housing,” another owner wrote. “It is not suitable for placement too close to the STR’s (short-term rentals) that (contribute) so much in taxes to the costs of the town. Too much traffic congestion on Carriage Way.”

It is unclear when the request will go before the planning commission. The commission can either recommend that the Town Council amend the housing master plan to remove the sites or recommend to keep the plan as it is. The former would require a more formal vote.

“I think the housing master plan was a well thought-out plan with a tremendous level of public input,” Kinney said. “Reducing any level of workforce housing is just not a good idea.”

 

By: Lucy Peterson| Snowmass Sun I March 28, 2024


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