Intrawest partially puts off Aspen expansion
Construction of a litany of buildings pivotal to the Base Village in Aspen is being postponed until next year, Intrawest announced Tuesday.Citing numerous issues, including the rush to get permits after Snowmass Village residents narrowly approved the massive project in February, Michael O’Connor of Intrawest said delaying construction made the most sense.Above-ground construction will begin in the spring of 2006 due to delays related to securing an Army Corps of Engineers permit, according to a news release from the development company. Construction on buildings had been scheduled to begin last spring.Projects that will be delayed for a year include a children’s ski school center, conference space, retail and restaurant space and condominiums, some of which have already been sold.Intrawest is partnering with the Aspen Skiing Co. in building Base Village, a $400 million project that will bring 1 million square feet of development to Fanny Hill.One of the larger hurdles has been obtaining the permit from the corps of engineers. The agency is charged with, among other duties, protecting the nation’s wetlands. At issue has been about a half-acre of wetlands near Snowmass Creek and the amount of water Base Village will need from the creek.In a recent letter to Intrawest, the corps said approval of the permit will be tied to stream flow, said O’Connor, Intrawest’s vice president of development.”We were under the understanding that that would not be the case,” he said.The developers have multiple arguments against having the permit tied to stream flows. O’Connor contended that officials with the town’s water and sanitation district have said there will be plenty of water available to serve the development.But he and Bill Kane, Skico’s vice president of development, also said the corps is overreaching its authority because 404 permits – which deal with wetlands – don’t normally deal with stream-flow depletion issues.”Everyone, including Intrawest and the Aspen Skiing Co., understand what needs to be done with a 404 permit,” O’Connor said. “This is a precedent-setting type of response, quite frankly.”Mark Gilfillan, regulatory project manager at the Army Corps’ Grand Junction office, scoffed at that suggestion.”Oh, I’ve heard those words used and kicked around by a lot of people other than Intrawest, which includes local landowners that don’t like government intervention or the regulatory role of the Clean Water Act,” he said. “Those are personal opinions.”Whenever construction activities are particularly complex or controversial, “the corps can take discretionary authority and elevate any permit to (an) individual standard-type permit – for full review,” Gilfillan said.The corps’ role is to thoroughly develop an environmental assessment and ensure permit decisions are based on sound judgment, he said. “I believe we’re acting fully within our capacity in issuing permits” on Base Village.Gilfillan said he was surprised to hear building construction had been delayed, especially considering that “the corps is close, if not completely done with our project review and ready to issue the (404) permit.”
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