Telluride plot thickens

TELLURIDE – The plot continues to thicken in Telluride, where the town is attempting to condemn 570 acres of pastoral land at the entrance to the box-canyon valley.

Although a jury in February ruled that landowner Neal Blue is entitled to get $50 million, Blue is now trying to block the condemnation.

The San Diego Union-Tribune explains that Blue bought 880 acres in the valley in 1983 for a reported $6 million and had plans to build a golf course and assorted real estate. Blunted by Telluride, he later announced plans to annex to Mountain Village, Telluride’s relatively new sibling town. That ignited the plan to condemn the property.

“The owner is very, very angry at the notion that he should have property expropriated by Telluride that is outside the borders of Telluride, that is bigger than the town of Telluride itself, and that is to be used for their own private playground,” Blue’s attorney, Denver-based Tom Ragonetti, told theUnion-Tribune.

In 2004, Ragonetti helped persuade Colorado legislators to adopt a law that sharply curtailed the ability of home-rule municipalities to condemn land outside their borders and expressly blocked Telluride from condemning land outside its borders for parks and open space.

Soon after adoption of the law, however, a district court judge in Telluride ruled the law unconstitutional. Blue is now appealing that decision to the Colorado Supreme Court. Town officials toldThe Telluride Watch they were expecting the appeal. “We are very confident with our position here,” said Mayor John Pryor.

As of April 1, private fund-raisers were short $2 million of collecting half of the $50 million for the property. The formal deadline for the town’s payment is May 21. The town has authorized the other half.The Telluride Daily Planettold of letters arriving with $10 bills, $20 bills, and an occasional $20,000 check.The Denver Post tells of fund-raisers in cow costumes ringing bells and collecting spare change from passersby.

However, interest on the town’s payment has been accruing at a rate of $11,000 a day since the jury verdict on Feb. 21. In addition, the town is accumulating enormous legal fees.

“What you have in Telluride is a large constituency of people who moved here because they are of the mind that the Earth is imperiled,” Seth Cagin, publisher of told the San Diego newspaper. “To them it’s important to draw the line and take a stand – and just say no.”

Cagin had strongly supported a prior compromise measure that would have put most of the land into open space while allowing 24 large homes and a small commercial area, at no cost to the town. He accuses the majority in Telluride of environmental elitism.

The Town Council and nearly all other public officials supported that same compromise. But 58 percent of town voters rejected the compromise, and now Pryor is trying to carry out their wishes.

Companies ready beatle biomass

GRANBY – Several projects are in the works to make use of the thousands and probably millions of beetle-killed dead trees now standing in the forests of north-central Colorado.The Sky-Hi News says they are at the “cutting edge of finding solutions to today’s rapidly changing economic and natural landscape.”

A plant that would burn trees to produce heat and electricity is being studied near Walden, located in North Park. The electrical utility for that area, Mountain Parks Electric, is getting a federal grant of $242,000 to study its options.

Joe Pandy, general manager, said there are three options: 1) burn the biomass to produce steam, which would turn a turbine that makes electricity; 2) it can be made into a liquid fuel; or 3) it can be made into a flammable gas.

Such a plant is believed to have an electrical generating capacity of three to four megawatts. That compares with the 700-megawatt coal-burning fire plants being planned by Tri-State Transmission and Generation in southwestern Kansas. But if the plant is successful, other plants could be built elsewhere in the region.

Another company, Ranch Creek Limited, based near Granby, is also getting a federal grant for $144,000 to better use existing dead trees in making posts, railings and logs for homes.

Yet at Parshall, located between Kremmling and Granby, a proposal has been filed to create wood pellets for stoves. The proponent, Forest Energy Colorado, believes there’s now enough wood in the area to keep the pellet factory in business, plus 14 to 18 people, for at least 10 years.


Idaho county plugs growth pipe

DRIGGS, Idaho – County commissioners in Idaho’s Teton County, an overflow area for Jackson Hole, have declared a six-month moratorium on zoning changes and new applications for development. The moratorium does not affect previous applications to create 3,000 new building lots nor prevent building of previously approved projects.

The valley includes the towns of Victor, Driggs and Tetonia. These towns and rural subdivisions are home to hundreds of people who commute across Teton Pass to jobs in Jackson Hole. As well, the valley is gaining a resort-based economy of its own, with new higher-end vacation, retirement and lone-eagle housing in the works.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports the community is sharply divided about growth controls.

“This is runaway socialism tonight,” said former Planning Commission chairman, Bill Moulton. He said the moratorium will prevent the sale of property by residents, thereby ruining their retirement plans. The newspaper said it will not prevent the sale of property as such.

The county commissioners were also divided. The two commissioners supporting the moratorium were both elected last November and are both Democrats. One of them had written an editorial warning of possible population growth reaching 114,000 in the county.

The lone commissioner opposing the moratorium, a Republican, moved his chair to the end of the table, creating a literal gap to symbolize his philosophic distance from his colleagues. He urged them to “eat crow and eat it fast.” He was alluding to an effort last year by previous commissioners to enact a similar emergency moratorium.

The newspaper says the county Planning Department is so fully booked that applications cannot be heard for five months.


Vail upscales low-cost lodging

VAIL – Virtually the last of Vail’s low-cost lodging is going to be razed during the spring shoulder season. The Roost Lodge, located about two miles from the ski lifts, typically caters to college students, hunters, and people from Colorado’s Front Range.

The going rate for a room this weekend is $89, compared to $149 at a nearby Holiday Inn Express, while a hotel room at the base of the mountain goes for $250. As you might expect, some of the five-star hotels are going for considerably more than that, even in April.

But in general, Vail is going steadily more upscale. The average daily rates at hotels in February, for example, hit $330 this year, compared to $263 during the same month last year. A host of high-end properties will open during the next several years, some of them remodels of existing hotels but others essentially new.

– compiled by Allen Best