A-Basin’s future in the plan?
DILLON – Arapahoe Basin ski area is beloved for its throw-back feel, a day lodge, a challenging mountain and a rock ‘n roll “beach” for tail-gaters.The nearest condo is miles down Highway 6 at Keystone.But when A-Basin officials peer into the future, they see, among other things, a members-only club. And maybe a residence for the owners and a midmountain restaurant.For those reasons, ski area executives are asking the Snake River Planning Commission to keep the door open for future development as it is revising the Snake River Master Plan, which county planners are hoping to have finalized by March 2005.A new ski area land use designation will be added to the plan, which will affect A-Basin and Keystone, and was one of the main points of contention at a recent master plan meeting.At that session, long-range planning manager Mark Truckey presented commissioners with a rough draft of the revision.Most of the night’s conversations revolved around details to be hammered out in the ski area land use designation and transfer of development rights.The language is arcane, but it is what leads to development or the directing of development to designated areas.Ski area land use designation
The ski area designation would apply to different parcels of private land located within ski areas boundaries and would establish guidelines for how that land can be used.A-Basin owns a number of private mining claims across the mid and upper mountain and while it has no concrete plans to develop anything at this point, general manager Jim Gentling wants to make sure certain developments and uses will be allowed in the future.Those uses could include a midmountain restaurant, a members-only club facility, a corporate retreat, a residence for the owner, a snowmaking reservoir, a lift terminal for an East Wall lift, a renewable energy source and permission to trade acquired land to the U.S. Forest Service.While commissioners agreed with most of the uses, the members-only club, as well as the possibility of residential development, raised some eyebrows.”I don’t see the economic feasibility of a private club anytime in the near future,” commissioner John Crone said.”I’d be hesitant in allowing that kind of use. A-Basin is not that big and I don’t see why a limited-access facility makes sense,” said commissioner Craig Suwinksi, who is also a host volunteer at A-Basin.Gentling urged commissioners to consider the long-term moves the mountain may need to take to keep visitors interested in coming back year after year.”Private clubs are working all over the country and we have to think, what can we do at the ski area to generate revenue over time?” Gentling said.The club, which Gentling described as similar to Game Creek Club on Vail Mountain or Beano’s Cabin at Beaver Creek, would include a small restaurant and be available to those who pay the club fees.Although commissioners are adamant about not allowing residentially zoned areas in the designation, Gentling asked they consider making an exception for employee housing.He addressed the need for on-mountain employee housing in addition to its off -mountain options several miles away, as well as the mountain’s desire to replicate an old lodge from the 1960s with dormitory-style rooms.
Commissioners suggested several options, such as restricting residential development to the base of the mountain to eliminate the possibility of upslope developments in the future. Gentling promised he’s not trying to abandon A-Basin’s character, which is defined by its absence of residential development.”We want to maintain the affordable atmosphere, but we have to look to the future and we need your help doing that, ” Gentling said.Keystone has also requested some flexibility in the designation to allow special events and concerts at the base of the River Run slope.The commission will continue to mull over the ski area land use designation at a second work session next month.Transfer of development rights The transfer of development rights, or TDR’s, is a progressing program that would allow resort developers to buy density from backcountry landowners.Commissioners look at the program as a win-win situation because developers gain density that is not allowed in their planned unit development (pud) and rural land owners benefit financially in exchange for leaving their land undeveloped.Per the commission, Keystone developers are allowed a 25% increase in density ,beyond the pud, through TDRs within River Run and Mountain House resort neighborhood.
But, Thomas Davidson of Vail Resort Development Inc., wants commissioners to allow Keystone to rearrange its density without having to go into the backcountry.For example, Davidson wants permission to take 50 units of density from Mountain House to be used at River Run, without getting any units from the backcountry, avoiding the $34, 000 pricetag for one unit.That’s where incentives come into play.In order to help convince developers to use TDRs, commissioners have shown a willingness to implement an incentive system, such as bonus densities, when one development right from a sending site might be worth at least two at the receiving site.Another suggestion is waiving application fees for developers using backcountry TDRs, but commissioner Terry Craig brought up the potential of incentives getting out of hand.”If you have too many little incentives going on, people will always push the envelope, if you give them one, they’ll want two, ” warned Craig. “We should be very careful about incentives and bonuses – the TDRs are the incentive.”Commissioners will continue to discuss TDRs and incentives at a second work session in January.After that, Truckey would like to hold one public hearing in February when people could view the finished draft, then possibly hold another hearing in March depending on commissioners’ comfort level with the product. Truckey hopes to have the final draft approved by next spring.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 229 or at email@example.com.
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