Trophy-home size cap considered

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Routt County, where Steamboat Springs is located, is looking to get more aggressive in regulating the flow of big money real-estate projects into rural areas.

County officials are considering limiting the maximum home sizes. Colorado’s Pitkin County, which is where Aspen is located, and Wyoming’s Teton County, home to Jackson, already have done so in an effort to limit visual impact and the consumption of energy and other resources.

In Routt County, planning director Caryn Fox toldThe Steamboat Pilot & Today that the genesis of the conversation is the county comprehensive plan. That plan stresses the desirability of preserving the rural character of unincorporated areas of the county.

Pitkin County recently enacted regulations limiting home sizes to 15,000 square feet. The thinking, in part, is that the larger the home, the more it requires employees such as caretakers, landscapers and others to make regular visits, thus taxing the roads and other infrastructures.

In Teton County, homes on smaller rural lots are limited to 10,000 square feet, including accessory structures, although incrementally larger parcels are allowed incrementally larger homes up to 15,000 square feet.

Routt County is also considering a proposal to implement inclusionary zoning, which requires residential developers to include a certain percentage of affordable housing units within their projects. Inclusionary zoning has been adopted by a wide variety of resort towns in the West, although by only a few counties.

Sun Valley gears up for big growth

KETCHUM, Idaho – County commissioners in Blaine County, which is where Ketchum and Sun Valley are located, are becoming more aggressive in addressing the projected doubling of population during the next 20 years.

The county has already instituted a moratorium on new subdivisions while it considers future settlement patterns. One major zoning change would reclassify land now considered unproductive agriculture to a new classification called remote and rural. In that zone, development would be restricted to one unit per 40 acres.

At the same time, reports theIdaho Mountain Express, the commissioners may steer new homes away from aesthetically and environmentally sensitive areas, called the agricultural/wetlands protection area, by allowing development rights to be transferred to an area near the down-valley town of Bellevue. Such programs are already in place in the Breckenridge area of Colorado’s Summit County and in Pitkin County, where Aspen is located.

The commissioners are also looking at setbacks in wetlands, riparian and critical wildlife areas, and increased development restrictions in the floodplain and hillsides. All of this comes after two years of deliberations.

Aspen takes on greenhouse gases

ASPEN – Aspen continues to mull the implications of a report issued in February that finds that the city’s residents, workers and visitors were collectively responsible for twice as many greenhouse gases per capita as the national average in the United States, itself one of the world’s leaders.

The study, which was instigated by town officials, found that private jets were responsible for 19 percent of the greenhouse gases, commercial airlines 23 percent, and road travel – everything from tourists to commuters to locals – added up to 25 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

By contrast, 33 percent of greenhouse gases are attributed to buildings, almost evenly split between residential and commercial properties.

The Aspen Times notes that while the city diligently enforces a building code that demands energy efficiency in heating and cooling, any house of 10,000 square feet in size uses much energy. The average house in Aspen is responsible for an estimated average of 19.5 tons of emissions per year, but a home of almost 8,000 square feet – mid-sized by the standards of Aspen – produced an astounding 171 tons of emissions.

Partly what explains such high tonnages is that carbon released into the atmosphere bonds with oxygen, becoming much heavier as a result. Much of this doesn’t occur locally, but at the sources of power, such as coal-fired power plants.

Aspen has been concerned for decades about the implications

of high energy use, and in 2000 the city and county adopted something called the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program. Nicknamed the Robin Hood program, it forces residential builders to find ways to offset energy consumption from so-called extravagant features such as outdoor pools, snowmelt systems and large spas, or pay a fee that is then used to fund energy-conserving features elsewhere in the community.

Ritz-Carlton lands in Lake Tahoe

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Following in the footsteps of Colorado ski resorts, Northstar-at-Tahoe continues to add real estate. The newest addition is a $300-million, five-star hotel to be called The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe. Construction is to begin this summer.

As has become usual, the hotel’s 172 rooms will be privately owned, about half fully and the other half in time–share. The hotel is being developed by Colorado-based East West Partners and its funding partner, Crescent Real Estate Equities Co., which is developing 1,450 townhomes and condominiums nearby.

Reminiscent of the Ritz-Carlton completed at Beaver Creek several years ago, the hotel will feature steeply pitched roofs with shed dormers, sheltering porches and stone fireplaces in a style sometimes called “parkitecture,” as it is inspired by the Old Faithful Inn and other national park structures built in the West early in the 20th century. The principal designer is Mark Hornberger, of the San Francisco-based Hornberger + Worstell Architectures.

Tom Dunlap, a manager partner for East West Partners, suggested that the hotel could “start to lay the groundwork to invite markets” that have not traditionally provided many visitors to the Lake Tahoe-Truckee area. He specifically mentioned Chicago. He also noted the 13 million people of the Bay Area, located within a 3.5-hour drive.

Mountainfilm to focus on Mongolia

TELLURIDE – Mongolia will be one focus at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival over Memorial Day Weekend. As it so happens, notesThe Telluride Watch, this just happens to be the 800th anniversary of the founding of that country by conqueror Genghis Khan.

The festival, now in its 28th year, casts a wandering eye at various mountainous locales in the world. What might be called celebrities from the world of mountain travel and adventure are also invited, and among them this year are filmmaker Willie Bogner, one of the first extreme ski cinematographers and also a designer of ski fashions. Also scheduled to attend is Eric Jackson, an Olympic champion freestyle and slalom kayaker. Yet another is Jack Tackle, a guide in the Tetons.

Festival director Arlene Burns, herself a filmmaker, also reports the festival films and presentations will give a great deal of attention to environmental themes: climate change, the peaking of world oil production, community-supported agriculture and socio-political situations in such disparate places as Bolivia and Rwanda.

Latino students protest in Sierra

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Dozens of Latino students in South Lake Tahoe used cell-phone text messaging to organize small rallies last week against proposed immigration laws.

One student, who was among 15 classmates assembled at school district headquarters, told theTahoe Daily Tribune that the proposed laws are racist. The newspaper reports that the school district has 1,500 Latino students. As of the last census, South Lake Tahoe was 26 percent Hispanic.

Other students walked out of high schools at nearby Truckee, North Tahoe and Incline Village, but the largest protest of students was at Carson City, Nev., where 300 students marched to the state capitol in protest. While some of the students carried Mexican flags, a new group of protestors planned to wave American flags. “We want people to know we have respect for this country as well,” Karla Orozco told theTribune.

Latino workers were also planning to hold more public demonstrations on April 8. In Telluride, landscape worker and volunteer firefighter Oscar Meza said his newly formed Hispanic Union is encouraging a general strike. He is encouraging immigrants to wear white, to stay away from work, and not spend any money. He toldThe Denver Post that there is no big problem in Telluride, but they want to show support to demonstrators in other states.

– compiled by Allen Best

Whistler marketing gets “naughty”

WHISTLER, B.C. – Canadians marketing Whistler and other tourism destinations have borrowed the Las Vegas theme of naughty. An $11 million campaign in Britain, France and Germany includes clothes abandoned at a twilight poolside.

But that advertisement won’t be used in efforts to interest the Chinese, who are expected to soon be allowed to visit Canada for recreation. Officials tellPique that Whistler will be emphasized as a year-round destination, one stop among several on summer tours.

Ground broken in Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – Work has begun on a new base-area real estate project at Crested Butte that is now being called North Village. It is characterized in this way: “walking friendly; connected; diversified; mixed housing; density; smart transportation; and sustainability.”

Writing in theCrested Butte News, the ski area’s special consultant, John Norton, insists that the precedents for such a village are Aspen and Telluride – but pointedly not other places.

“Biking trails leaving the village. Hiking trails. Water. Sunshine. Neighbors and neighborhoods,” he adds. “In other words, something that hasn’t been proposed at the base of a mountain for more than a hundred years.”

Vail tallies record snowfall season

VAIL – Early in the winter Vail Mountain marketers were crowing that it was the snowiest winter ever. The pace slackened, and in fact, both Vail and Beaver Creek reported lower-than-average snowfall for February and March. Still, it remains the fourth snowiest winter since Vail’s inaugural 1962-63 season. As of early April, Vail had received 406 inches of snow, which ski company representatives said was 75 inches more than average.

–compiled by Allen Best