Valley Floor stirs up Telluride

TELLURIDE – Telluride voters went back to the polls this week to commit more money to preservation of a 570-acre parcel as open space. Commonly called the Valley Floor, the parcel is located at the entrance of the town, a sea of green grass, yellow dandelions, and black-and-white Holsteins in summer – but pointedly devoid of buildings.

Town residents have discussed preservation of the parcel for a decade. Neal Blue, who owns the land, wants to develop it. Town residents, through repeated votes, have insisted that absolutely nothing will change, and have promised to condemn it to ensure the continued status quo.

Because the land – flat and with views of Telluride’s box canyon – is so utterly developable, that condemnation will likely cost the town a great deal of money. Estimates range from $40 million to $80 million. The town has already committed 20 percent of town revenues to open space preservation, and voters in November were asked to increase debt to $20 million. A lop-sided approval was expected.

But there is dissent.The Telluride Watch notes that voters earlier this year rejected a compromise proposal that would have kept 90 percent of the parcel in open space – at no taxpayer cost.

With no expectations of turning popular support for the acquisition, no matter how expensive it may prove to be,The Watch again urged against letting open space preservation dominate public policy.

“Isn’t $60 million or $70 million in public funds – the precise amount can’t be known – an awful lot to pay for something we could have had 90 percent of for no cost at all?” asks the paper in an editorial. “Imagine what we could have done with the money! Save the Gunnison sage grouse. Put solar panels on every roof in the county. Build community-preserving affordable housing. Instead, we will now protect the view corridor of the few who can afford our ever-rising property values and cost of living.”

Tapped byThe Watch for opinion, town council member Yogi Kirst gently urged caution. “My hope is that the people of Telluride put its people, its working class, and the vibrancy of the community above open space,” he said.

But Gary Hickox disagrees. “I will tell you, having worked in the open space movement for the past 13 years, that there is not a community in the country – not one – that would ever say to you, ‘We regret having saved this open space.’”

Trophy homes out of fashion

PARK CITY, Utah –The 1990s was the decade of “biggie-size” applied to everything from french fries to homes. Now, that trend is ebbing. “People were going bigger, bigger, bigger,” says Scott Jaffa, of Jaffa Group Architects, in Park City. “Now I see a trend where they want to go smaller and more efficient.”

Another Park City architect agrees. “The mega-home is going to become more rare, but people are still going to spend on what they consider quality items,” says Bill Mammen.

Both architects detect a stronger demand for “green building,” in which homes reduce their needs for energy, water and other resources.

“One of the trends I see now is more clients are asking for green building materials and tankless water heaters,” Jaffa toldThe Park Record. “We are retrofitting a client’s heated driveway with a solar hot-water system versus using a boiler.”

Mammen said he has been trying to improve operating efficiencies of homes in Park City since he arrived in 1978. “In the ‘90s, people didn’t care at all,” he said. “Now people are asking for it.” Added Jaffa, “Whether you believe in global warming or not, we need to conserve. We just can’t keep throwing away everything.”

Metals, which call to mind the historic mining structures in Park City, and reused wood, such as from old barns, are also being employed more frequently, even in new homes, Jaffa says.

“One of the biggest things I’ve seen is they want a new house to look older vs. new, highly polished, highly sleek finish,” he said. “I think what‘s important in looking at architecture is finding the things that are timeless.”

Carbondale becomes green hub

CARBONDALE – Carbondale has become an informal hub for thinkers and activists involved in various environmental causes. A forum four years ago foresaw an even more bold vision for the Roaring Fork Valley, as a “green” Silicon Valley.

That dream is coalescing into a coalition of 10 nonprofit groups who have optioned a 5.6-acre parcel on the edge of town for what they hope will become the Sustainability Center of the Rockies. There, organizations focused on conservation, renewable energy and social justice can share conference rooms and reference libraries, receptionists and food.

The campus, if it is created, is expected to attract national and regional conservation organizations like The Wilderness Society and The Nature Conservancy, said Tim McFlynn, co-director of the new organization. “We’re on the cusp of a good thing here,” Doug Graybeal, an architect who is president of the center’s board of directors, toldThe Aspen Times.

Such shared nonprofit centers are also found in Boulder, Denver and San Francisco.

Located 30 miles down-valley from Aspen, Carbondale enjoys a more temperate climate yet still extraordinary beauty. The setting is a small town little removed from its past as a center for potato farming and coal mining, but close enough to tap Aspen’s cosmopolitan sophistication and great wealth.

Randy Udall, who is a prominent lecturer about energy (and also director of the trend-setting Community Office for Resource Efficiency), is based there, as is a business called Solar Energy International. Yet another business is Global Economy Outfitters, which sells such things as organic teas, hemp clothing and energy-efficient light bulbs.


Labor shortage hits Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – One bagel shop in Jackson is closing on weekends until December, due to a labor shortage. At the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the annual job fair this year attracted 10 percent fewer applicants. And theJackson Hole News & Guide’s help-wanted listings have thickened to seven pages.

All these factors are indicative of a tightening labor market in Jackson Hole that concerns business officials.

“There are real concerns that are starting to become apparent on quantity and quality of work force,” said Tim O’Donoghue, executive director of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “It’s anecdotal, but the concerns are growing. The trend is not a good one.”

Various causes of the shortage are cited. Outlying communities west of Teton Pass, where many workers live, are starting to generate their own jobs. The energy boom is offering better paying jobs. And the loss of the ski area’s tram had reduced the luster of a ski pass that is the general inducement for many low-paying service jobs.

Scott Horn, vice president of human resources at the ski area, said the largest story is the general economy.

“When the economy gets difficult, our hiring gets better. The economy is doing fairly well now, so I’m not surprised that we’re struggling a little bit,” Horn told the newspaper. The company is hiring 20 winter employees from South America.


New town pitched near Vail

MINTURN – Plans have been formally submitted to Minturn town officials for a $1 billion development on former mining parcels located in the triangulation of two towns, Minturn and Red Cliff, and the Vail ski area. The development, once completed, is projected to generate 776 employees.

A small, members-only ski area, a golf course and 1,700 houses are included in the plans. The proposed golf course would be built on top of a tailings pile which was consolidated and capped during a $70 million Superfund cleanup. The major mine in the area was called the Eagle Mine, which extracted zinc, lead, gold and other precious minerals. It closed in 1979.

The developer, Florida-based Ginn Co., is proposing to annex the 4,300 acres into Minturn. Minturn has not accepted it, but over protests of county commissioners concerned about growth in Eagle County, appears receptive. The formal review will not begin until January and may take the better part of 2007.


Vail home listed for $21 million

VAIL – If the sales price for an 11,800-square-foot home comes within a stone’s throw of the asking price of $21 million, there will be a new home sales-price record set in Vail. The existing record for a home sale in Vail, reports theVail Daily, is $18.5 million. Constructed in 1982, the house was purchased six years ago for $9 million by Bill Dore, who founded Global Industries, a company that provides construction services for the petroleum industry. Since then, he has invested millions in the de rigueur updating with marble countertops and what not.

– compiled by Allen Best

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