Mel Blumenthal

The first test of Snowmass Village’s new Comprehensive Plan could likely come from the new owners of the Snowmass Club.

In early December 2018, the prior owners of the club, Toll Brothers, closed on the sale to an investment/development group fronted by a relatively new local resident, Scott Brown.

A deeper dive into the ownership structure shows that most of the dollars needed to close this reported $18.5 million transaction came from an affiliate of Woodmont Properties, a New Jersey-based commercial and residential real estate developer. If you’re prone as I am to follow the money trail, control of the venture appears to reside with Woodmont.

Although Brown has been designated the managing partner and thus the local face of the ownership group, direction and decisions, at least as far as the big-ticket items and future changes to the property and club operations are concerned, decisions will be coming from the big money back in New Jersey.

A bit of sideline conjecture on my part: After examining the recorded ownership of the property, it appears that the sellers still retain an interest likely in the form of a mortgage lien for all or a substantial portion of the purchase price. Not surprising since the selling price was substantially north of the $9.1 million price the Toll Brothers paid to SkiCo back in 2013.

Woodmont has had its development eyes set on Snowmass for some time. With their ownership of the Snowmass Club they’re likely counting on the fulfillment of their local development dreams coming to fruition.

The Toll Brothers appeared to lose interest in retaining sole ownership of the club property when their plans to create additional residential development on and surrounding the golf course were loudly rejected by the community. Not long after that rumors began to circulate that Toll was looking to sell and apparently that process has been ongoing for several years.  

Interestingly, Woodmont was an early suitor but a deal was never consummated and similarly around the same time Woodmont’s offer to buy the Snowmass Mall was rejected by Related and the mall was subsequently sold to an investment/operating group headed by Dwayne Romero and his associates at The Romero Group.

I can’t imagine any knowledgeable investor and/or developer would pay the kind of price that Woodmont agreed to without a strong expectation that their development plans would ultimately be approved; however, there is no evidence that I can uncover that the community or its elected leadership would ever approve any further development on and adjacent to the golf course.

During the deliberations concerning the new comprehensive plan, early drafts of the plan included the golf course as one of the town sites designated for future development.  The planning commission and town council quickly rejected that concept. Brown even made an appearance in front of the council during the comprehensive plan deliberations requesting that the council reconsider its decision. He didn’t change their minds.

With all the uncertainty concerning development rights, who knows how much cash Woodmont actually turned over to the Toll Brothers, particularly in light of the fact that the sellers still retain an interest in the property in the event of a default by the buyer.  

If the town doesn’t deliver the development rights Woodmont needs, they’ll likely just pull up stakes and head for greener pastures and give up little if anything on the way out the door.  

To put things in perspective, the golf course has always served two purposes: one recreational and the other perhaps even more important as open space with limited development so as not to interrupt the vast expanse of open entryway landscape.

Apparently, the new owners understand how difficult it will be to obtain approval of their development plans, thus they’ve resorted to a bit of bribery by offering to build 50 employee housing units over and around the tennis courts in exchange for a yet to be specified amount of new high-end luxury residential development on and around the golf course.

I can’t imagine that Woodmont’s offer, as generous as it may sound on its face, will gain traction when the downside of obstructing the entryway open space is so severe, but just to be sure, I recommend that you make your feelings known to your elected representatives, sooner rather than later.

It’s best to put this matter to rest quickly even if means the new owners move on to greener pastures, leaving the community without the more exclusive high-end private club the new owners have been promoting for the past few months. 

Your comments are welcome at justmel1@earthlink.net & Twitter @MelDBlumenthal.

Editor's note: Due to an editing error, this column initially misstated the number of employee housing units offered at Snowmass Club and has been updated.