Realtor numbers up in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Among permanent residents of Teton County, where Jackson Hole is located, one out of every 20 is a registered Realtor. That compares with one out of 230 nationally.

The ranks of Realtors have swelled 10 percent annually during the last five years. The Teton Board of Realtors now has 655 members. Real estate offices range from one-person outfits to the valley’s biggest, a Sotheby’s outlet that has 140 licensed property peddlers.

By comparison, the Vail Board of Realtors has 750.

Why so many agents, asks theJackson Hole News & Guide? Potential wealth, obviously. In mid-June, for example, the average sales price of single-family homes was almost $1 million. Selling just one house is, for many people, like hitting the lottery, explained John Hanlon, who is president of the Teton Board of Realtors.

Also, unlike most businesses, opening a real estate office is relatively inexpensive.

But not everybody hits the real estate lottery. On average, an agent makes one or two sales annually. Twenty percent of agents generally account for 80 percent of sales, said Hanlon.

Meanwhile, the real estate boom of the last three years is hitting some minor bumps. In Pitkin County, where Aspen is located, sales in May were down nearly 16 percent compared with the same month last year.

However, February through April all gained against last year, putting the total dollar volume of sales at 4.66 percent ahead of last year’s record pace, reportsThe Aspen Times.

Down-valley in Garfield County, where Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Rifle are located, sales in May jumped 39 percent.


Restaurateurs begin to think local

KETCHUM, Idaho – A growing number of restaurateurs in Ketchum, Sun Valley and other Wood River Valley towns are deliberately serving organic foods and locally produced vegetables, fruits and meat.

For example, instead of relying upon produce from California, restaurateurs can buy local lettuce, cucumbers and spinach, as well as red beets, carrots and asparagus.

 “I want my food to be grown and come from closer than the food service industry would have us do,” explained Chris Kastner, owner of CK’s Real Food. “We’re all about going with the seasons and keeping it as local as we can. It makes you feel good about what you’re selling – that you’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

The Idaho Mountain Express traces this thinking to the Slow Food movement, which began in 1986 in response to the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Rome, Italy. The Express says the name has become synonymous with opposition to everything the fast-food industry is famous for: monoculture farming, fat-saturated products, and growth hormones.

Among those benefiting are sheep producers. The mountains of the West are covered with grazing sheep. But most are shipped to feedlots, where they are fed grain before they are slaughtered.

One producer near Ketchum, Lava Lake Land and Livestock, directly sells to local restaurants when the lambs are four to six months old. It also sells directly to the public.

“There’s accountability,” said Mike Stevens, president of the ranching company. “If the product’s not good, you’re going to hear about it.”


High altitude development pitched

MINTURN – A $1 billion real estate development being planned for an old mining area on the southwest side of Vail Mountain, between the old towns of Red Cliff and Minturn, will have elevations as high as 10,500 feet. Opponents say that’s too high to have houses for people coming from sea level.

Or is it? Breckenridge has a base elevation of 9,800 feet, but homes extend to about 11,000 feet on the way to Hoosier Pass. Copper Mountain is at about 9,700 feet, while Mt. Crested Butte and Telluride’s Mountain Village are both at around 9,400 feet. So, what’s another 1,000 feet?

A physician consulted by theVail Daily seemed to think that the thin air alone shouldn’t kill the real estate vision. Granted, 25 percent of visitors arriving for a Colorado mountain vacation get altitude sickness during their first few days. A handful of them will be so sick they will want to stay at home, he says.

The project is also being criticized for the impact to wildlife.

Some 1,150 homes are proposed for about 4,500 acres of land. “The impact to elk for the entire project is significantly understated,” said Perry Will, a Colorado Division of Wildlife manager.

The developer, Ginn Co., is considering doing what none before him has done, which is to build a wildlife overpass across Highway 24, which goes through the project, to help expedite movement of elk and other wildlife species.


Second homeowners try going green

SILVERTON – In ski towns and resort valleys of the West, the name “second home” has nearly become synonymous with “trophy home” or even “gluttony.”The New York Times, however, finds another aspect to vacation homes, a “green” one that is motivated by good intentions, guilt and the quest for bragging rights.

“We’re getting people doing million-dollar houses with composting toilets,” said John Abrams, who builds solar-paneled and salvaged-lumber second homes on Martha’s Vineyard. The National Association of Home Builders reports that it’s getting easier than ever to find contractors who are ecologically minded. And a new, standardized rating system from the United States Green Building Council helps them verify that claim.

But can a second home ever be ecologically sound? Not really, although the newspaper finds some owners of vacation homes that have gone to great lengths to minimize their impact on the planet.

One such vacation homeowner interviewed by the newspaper is Kimberly Garner, who searched online for recycled materials with which to build a 20-by-25-foot house in Silverton. But recycled and “green” is not always cheaper, at least in the short run. Monica Marsiecek, the publisher ofEcological Home Ideas, says building green typically adds 5 to 10 percent to the total price tag. However, she expects the price to drop as such building practices become more mainstream and competitive.


Park City converts fleet to biodiesel

PARK CITY, Utah – After a one-year test, municipal leaders in Park City have decided biodiesel is their cup of tea. The city’s entire fleet of diesel-powered vehicles is now using B-20, in which 20 percent of the fuel is derived from soybeans and other vegetative matter.

The adventure in environmental do-goodism is actually costing the town less money. In the last year, the price of conventional diesel has increased. Now, biodiesel will save 5 cents per gallon. The town expects to burn 215,000 to 220,000 gallons per year, mostly in transit buses.

Eric Nesset, the town’s fleet manager, said the town last summer began using B-20 exclusively in its old town trolley. A concern was whether the fuel would gel during cold winter temperatures. It didn’t. “We never had a bit of a problem,” he said. “We had a lot of cold weather – as cold a winter as we ever had here, and we just never had a problem with it.”

The city’s experiment was driven by municipal policy that aims for reducing environmental impacts. The city also is attempting to construct more energy-efficient buildings, costing more money in the short run but saving money in the long run.

In addition to the satisfactory test results, a second crucial threshold was reached: the town’s diesel supplier began providing B-20 exclusively to the town. As such, the town did not have to go into the fuel-supply business itself. Members of the public can also purchase B-20 at the supply center.


Gunnison County looks into biomass

GUNNISON – Add Gunnison County to the list of mountain town and county jurisdictions interested in using logs and slash from surrounding forests to heat public buildings in more advanced biomass burners.

There, a badly crowded jail needs to be expanded, and county commissioners may take a proposal before voters in November to double the size of the 45,000-square-foot courthouse.

The Crested Butte News reports agreement among land managers that a long-term supply of biomass is available from public lands for such a venture. The commissioners were offered – and accepted – a free feasibility study by McNeil Technologies. Financial assistance is available through the Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation.

Mountain bikers given speeding tickets

MT. CRESTED BUTTE – Police in Mt. Crested Butte have begun enforcing the letter of the traffic laws as they apply to bicycles, to the regret of one Justin Blakelee. He was given a $40 ticket for going 10 miles over the state 30 mph limit.

“There’s no way I even figured I would be going 10 over,” he told theCrested Butte News. “For crying out loud, it’s a mountain bike.”

The newspaper talked with one local mountain cyclist, Kay Peterson, who is OK with police enforcing the law – as long as they give their attention to cars, as well.

–compiled by Allen Best