A luxury lodging component included in the Base Village approval nearly two decades ago is moving closer to fruition, with town of Snowmass Village staff recommending approval of the proposed Fanny Hill Cabins Minor PUD Amendment on first reading of Ord. 14, series of 2020.
The ski-in, ski-out project’s review by the Snowmass Village Town Council continues Monday during the body’s regular meeting that begins at 3 p.m. with an executive session.
After a site visit Oct. 12 to the slopeside parcel on Snowmass Ski Area, elected officials adjourned to the town hall where they discussed changes to the 10-home Fanny Hill Cabins which would be located on the eastern side of Fanny Hill, just below the Aspen Skiing Co. operations facility.
Snowmass Ventures, the development entity of East West Partners, is the current owner of Base Village in Snowmass, along with KSL Capital Partners and SkiCo. They are asking for proposed changes to the currently approved mountainside development, highlighted by the conversion of 10 townhomes into 10 three- and four-bedroom detached homes that offer ski-in, ski-out convenience.
The idea to create an on-mountain cabin development totaling about 24,000 square feet on the east side of Fanny Hill originated in the 2003 preliminary PUD plan for Base Village. The current project is similarly sized.
According to Andy Gunion, who heads the project for Snowmass Ventures, the idea of developments on ski areas is not new; he cited one of his favorites as the mountainside neighborhood at the Sugar Bowl resort in Lake Tahoe.
Last week, Gunion and project manager Ellen McCready explained the changes to the Snowmass Village Town Council and answered questions about the project. One proposed change would be to shift the entrance to the development about 25 feet downhill. Most of the discussion focused on how the lights from cars exiting the development would wash across the front units of the Crestwood Condominiums on Wood Road.
Snowmass Ventures is working with the Crestwood to prevent headlight glare and has offered tinted windows to the front units and increased landscape buffering to mitigate the lights. Gunion also discussed traffic visibility from the pullout entrance, noting that traffic coming down Wood Road is seen for 5.3 seconds from either the new proposed entrance or the currently approved entrance.
“It seems with both the planning commission and town council that’s where a majority of the discussion has centered,” said Gunion. “We’ve studied the heck out of that and we believe we have the entrance in the right location.”
Robert Sinko, general manager of the Crestwood, urged council to not abandon considering moving the entrance to the development even further down Wood Road near the ski-back trail to the Elk Camp Gondola.
“We looked at that preliminarily a while ago and did not feel there was enough room,” Gunion said. “You would have to create a mini-frontage road, find a way to T that road into Wood Road, which requires certain minimum turning radiuses, and then you are constrained on the other side by the public ski way.”
But he vowed to revisit the idea one more time with a civil engineer to make sure they didn’t originally miss something.
Five years of vesting proposed
Another issue that has garnered discussion during the review is the project’s vesting. Fanny Hill was originally approved as part of the original Base Village development approvals in 2004, and amended most recently in 2016.
Councilman Bob Sirkus urged his fellow council members to reject the applicants’ ask for another 10 years in vesting to build and complete the Fanny Hill project.
“Honestly, I am tired of this,” said Sirkus. “I am tired of this project being presented as something that is important and necessary and has to be done right away and then it doesn’t get done. So I would ask my fellow councilors to consider a five-year vesting for this project.”
Gunion noted that five years “should be fine” and that Snowmass Ventures currently plans on breaking ground on the Fanny Hill development in April 2021 at the same time they plan to break ground on Building 11, just uphill on Wood Road from the Base Village entrance and parking garage.
An issue that was talked about extensively during the eight meetings the Fanny Hill project was reviewed by the Snowmass Village Planning Commission is building materials and fire mitigation.
John Mele is a longtime Snowmass Village resident and fire marshal for Roaring Fork Fire Rescue.
“We need to design that project as fire resistant as possible,” noted Mele. “The reason being is you can’t drive a fire truck up to the front door. They want to build this kind of experience for the people where they could ski in and ski out and that remote cabin-type feel is not a new concept.”
According to Mele, after East West Partners became the developer of Base Village, they started discussing making the cabins detached single family homes rather than townhomes, and they originally wanted to alter the project’s previously approved fire resistant buildings materials on the exteriors of the homes. Mele objected, and the new team revised their proposal.
“My understanding is that all of the exterior materials on this project are now non-combustible,” Gunion said.
Mele seemed to agree. He now approves of the currently proposed project’s fire mitigation on the project.
An issue that arose at the Snowmass Village Planning Commission was their recommendation for increased vegetation, to act as a screen, between the Fanny Hill development and Wood Road. The issue came up late in their discussions and was forwarded to town council with that recommendation.
Originally, Mele had concerns about the types of trees being used and how close they were positioned to the Fanny Hill homes, but after discussions with Snowmass Ventures, they appear on the verge of working out some accommodation.
“My initial reaction was that we have to be careful where we place conifer and evergreen trees. They really shouldn’t be too close to the structures,” Mele said. “Their thoughts are on screening. Mine are on wildfire and fire prevention. But I think the two can coexist.”
Additional proposed changes include rezoning the area to “multi-family,” and making a lot line adjustment with SkiCo, their partner in Base Village.
Town council has also expressed concern about the proposed pullouts that will be created on Wood Road and how those pullouts will function.