Affordable home costs $1 million

ASPEN – In Aspen, even the middle-class needs affordable housing. Middle class, in the Aspen context, means homes of $300,000 to more than $1 million.

Or at least that’s the conclusion of an experiment called the North 40, where land for 71 single-family homes was plotted. Buyers of the lots were permitted to build homes of up to 3,000 square feet with attached garages of 500 square feet. Many did so.

The consequence? Of those 71 homes, 19 are valued at more than $1 million. And nine are assessed at more than $900,000. These costs are based on the original base cost of the lots plus the cost of construction. Only five, reportsThe Aspen Times, are assessed at less than $400,000.

While appreciation on the homes is limited to 4 percent annually, the key question is whether these homes, by starting with such high price tags, will be truly affordable to those the government-sponsored program wants sheltered in the community. In other words, can even the middle class afford these subsidized homes?

“I think there’s a huge vacuum between the government housing program and the free market,” said John McBride, the developer.

Meanwhile, seeing what was happening at the North 40, county commissioners in a new and similar project took new measures to ensure that home prices don’t so quickly leap into the stratosphere. Homes in that new project, called Burlingame, are capped at $640,000.

Extreme meets corporate in Vail

VAIL – Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, early June was reliably and perhaps pleasantly dull in Vail. No touristas, no crowds of real consequence.

But finally, the perpetual effort to launch the summer season on Memorial Day has yielded something, if a week late. After enrolling Teva, the sandal manufacturer, a festival has been created that is built around whitewater paddling. In the last four years, attendance has nearly tripled and is now at about 22,000 spectators.

It’s yet another example of “extreme” meets corporate. Organizers lined up well more than $1 million in sponsorships from the likes of Volkswagen and Coors, partly because the target age range for the Teva games is so attractive to them. The average age of attendees at last year’s event was 37, with an average household income of $89,000, an organizer toldThe Denver Post.

Now, following the model set up by ESPN in the X Games being held every winter at Aspen, the Teva Games are going international, starting with an event in Europe in 2007, but expanding to other continents. Some sponsors toldThe Post that they like the event better than the X Games because it has broader appeal to a wider variety of demographic groups.

Golf club installs door for bears

ASPEN – People and bears continue to match wits in Aspen. There, bears have become so commonplace that a bear door, similar to a doggy door, has been installed at a trash enclosure at the Aspen Golf Club.

Drawing the bears to the trash enclosure is the smell of garbage, and because the dumpster is armored sufficiently, the bears will not actually be able to get garbage. But they can still smell it, and drawn by those smells, last year they broke through the enclosure.

Rather than repairing the enclosure, this new design gives them a big rubber flap to push through. Once inside, according to this theory, they will realize they have been foiled by the bear-proof Dumpster and will leave the same way they come in.

The next step? Perhaps it’s to train the bears to read signs, so they can more quickly identify that the rubber flap is the way to get in.

Vail and Minturn make peace

MINTURN – Former antagonists in the Vail area are now warily talking about building a sewer plant together.

For several years in the late 1990s, Minturn claimed that it was getting strong-armed by Vail Resorts and a local water and sanitation district, which is heavily influenced by the company. At issue was the ownership of water rights. Town officials, cutting their losses in a legal dispute they said they could not afford to continue, agreed to settle. This occurred during the same time that the ski company was getting approval to build its massive ski expansion, now called Blue Sky Basin, and shortly before the arson-caused fire that led to $12 million in damage to facilities at the top of Vail Mountain.

The Vail Daily reports that while hard feelings remain, the two groups are talking about a sewer plant that could cost up to $10 million. Both Minturn and Vail would benefit from a site near Dowd Junction, downstream from both towns, although getting a site there is likely to be difficult. The water and sanitation district also includes more broadly what is sometimes called the Vail Valley, including Avon, Beaver Creek and Edwards.

Also at issue is the $1 billion project planned by developer Bobby Ginn, south of Minturn. Ginn said he is willing to pay for his share, Minturn’s share, and then some. Still, finding the land for the sewer plant is the key. A major landowner in that stretch of the river is the U.S. Forest Service, although Vail Resorts also owns property.

Greens and Dems back growth

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Jackson Hole has been torn asunder by a proposal for a major real estate development at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and the anti-forces currently are on top.

But what is most surprising is who is supporting the project and who opposes it. Conservation groups can usually be counted on to oppose development. In this case, the influential and respected Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance endorsed the project as, essentially, the lesser of evils. So did the Jackson city government, about 6 miles away, despite the sentiment among some merchants that the new ski area project will pose a competition to the town’s economic interest.

Finally, there’s the matter of how the county commissioners, who have final authority in the matter, shake

out. In their first vote, the one against the project, they went 3-to-2 against. The three commissioners rejecting the project were all Republicans, and the two supporting it were Democrats.

What’s at the center of this tiff? Developers want to build 280 free-market and 186 affordable or employee units as well as some commercial space and a golf course. The dissenting Democrats argued that the project, if not perfect, offered much to the community to boost worker housing, improve mass transit and nail down some dedicated open space. “This is our ski resort, and this is a ski town,” said Andy Schwartz, a Democrat. “I don’t know what would happen here in winter without the ski resort.”

The developers who own the ranch are muttering about incorporation. For this to happen, the existing Teton Village would have to incorporate and then annex the ranch in question. The ski area operator favors the project and recruited Jack Lewis, a former official from Vail Resorts, to help promote it. Other ski area operators in the region – Grand Targhee and Snow King – also are pushing support, as are real-estate agents.

The story isn’t over, though. The last word out of Jackson is that one of the Republican commissioners has reconsidered and wants to review the project again. And so it will be.

Granby recalls dozer rampage

GRANBY – It was a weekend of anniversaries in Granby, one celebrated and the other inevitably remembered.

Celebrated was the 100th anniversary of the town. The town was created in 1905, when the railroad arrived after pushing across the Continental Divide.

Nobody has lived long enough to remember that day, but plenty of people remembered June 4, 2004, when Marvin Heemeyer crunched his way through or into 13 buildings in Granby, including the office of the town’s newspaper, theSky-Hi News, moments ahead of several staff members. Patrick Brower, the newspaper’s publisher, wants nothing of a remembrance that could remotely be construed as a celebration. “It seemed wrong to celebrate, even implicitly, such a wrong-headed act of revenge,” he writes.

Ultimately, says Brower, Heemeyer failed. He wanted to ruin Granby, but the town actually is better because of the forced rebuilding. The newspaper has a new and better office and construction has started on a bigger library, to cite just two instances.

Elk stalks and then chases jogger

RADIUM HOT SPRINGS, B.C. – Elk have been loitering around the Village of Radium Hot Springs for some time, and in May a local woman was stalked and then charged by a cow elk.

The woman had been on her customary morning jog when she encountered the elk at a bridge. She tried to skirt it, but the cow cut off her path and charged her. She retreated, but the elk followed.The Invermere Echo reports that for this transgression, the elk was shot.

– compiled by Allen Best

– compiled by Allen Best


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows