Vail boosts its affordable housing

VAIL – Vail town officials are now requiring affordable housing on all projects. In new building projects in the town’s more dense and commercial areas, particularly at the base of the ski slopes, 10 percent must be affordable. Developers of commercial space must provide housing for 20 percent of the new jobs they create.

These proportions are a compromise. Town officials had first proposed 30 percent but met strong opposition from builders and portions of the real-estate sector. But town officials are adamant that the regulations are necessary if the town is to meet its goal of having at least 30 percent of employees live in the town. The town figures that by 2020, almost every worker will live in some type of deed-restricted affordable housing, unable to afford free-market housing prices.

Unaffected by the new law is a surge of redevelopment with a combined value of more than $1 billion. Those projects, which are already under way, are expected to add 1,500 permanent jobs. In addition, new development down-valley in Avon and Edwards is expected to add another 7,370 jobs in the next few years. Vail is also looking at the potential of several major redevelopment projects.

Vail began its affordable housing program 10 years ago but lags far behind Aspen and Telluride, according to affordable housing experts. “We’re really a leader in the whole resort industry, except when it comes to housing,” said Steve Lindstrom, who owns a chain of movie theaters in the Eagle Valley. But a representative of the Vail Board of Realtors, Asher Maslan, said the formula used to determine housing requirements is unfair. It says that real estate offices create more jobs than other kinds of businesses. “We view it as very, very unfair,” he said.

An associated ordinance mandates that employee housing must be a minimum of 250 square feet.

Bears wake especially early this year

CRESTED BUTTE – Bears were raiding trash cans and dumpsters in Crested Butte by early March this year, far earlier than usual. Just what provoked the early appearance of the bruins is not clear, but town officials are now talking about what they can do to make Crested Butte less inviting. They are discussing a rash of measures similar to those previously adopted in the Snowmass-Aspen and Beaver Creek-Vail areas.

Already, the town has ordered 70 bear-resistant trash cans for use in business areas and parks. In addition, the town has ordered bear-resistant steel-reinforced trash containers to be sold to town residents at $200 each.

Still on the table is a law that would mandate wildlife-resistant containers, both for homes and businesses. Bear-resistant Dumpsters can cost more than $1,000. One alley behind Elk Lane, the restaurant-lined main street in Crested Butte, is called “fast food lane.”

The Colorado Division of Wildlife urges communitywide measures. In addition, wildlife biologists urge that trash cans and recycling containers be frequently cleaned with ammonia to eliminate strong food odors.

A bear’s nose has almost 100 times the number of scent membranes than an average human’s nose. If the wind is right, it’s possible for a bear to smell your barbecuing steaks from 3 to five 5 miles away.

‘Villages’ pop up all over West

HAILEY, Idaho – Having had his fill of the Civil War, Samuel Clements in 1861 journeyed across the West to Carson City, Nev., to partake of the mining excitement in the Sierra Nevada. There, he noted the broad use of the word “ranch.”

In the first place, there were no farms, only ranches, said Clements, later writing as Mark Twain in the bookRoughing It. But even more, the name ranch was sometime applied to singular buildings.

Something of the same thing is occurring in the West now, but with the use of the word “village.” From the base of a ski slope, it’s hard to throw a rock without hitting a village of some sort.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports the villaging of the West has been taken to a new level in Hailey. There, down-valley from Ketchum and Sun Valley, a developer is proposing a new three-story building. It is to have commercial, office and residential uses and is to wear the name Village at Hailey Center.

The Express says the Planning Commission approved of the developer’s vision but is unsure if it likes the color scheme for the “village.” If any eyebrows were raised about this new village-within-a-building concept, the newspaper didn’t note it.

Controversy mires Jumbo Resort

INVERMERE, B.C. – Sharp words continue to be heard in the wake of a move by Liberal Party politicians in the provincial government to fast-track a decision on the Jumbo Glacier ski resort.

The measure being discussed would create a new local government, a resort region, removing the decision from the Regional District of East Kootenay, which had been presumed to be the final decision-maker. Directors of the East Kootenay district voted 8 to 7 against protesting the provincial action.

Meanwhile, theInvermere Valley Echo continues to be a steaming bowl of conflicting opinions. Included in the last issue was a letter from Bill Bennett, who represents the area in the provincial Legislature. He says the Jumbo Glacier resort has been the “most studied, carefully planned resort project in Canadian history.” He also rejected charges of opponents that the resort would violate a pristine area. It’s near Panorama, a fast-growing resort, and both logging and mining operations have occurred at Jumbo in the past. “As a politician, it’s easy to avoid controversy by doing nothing and refusing to make hard decisions. I refuse to be that politician,” he wrote. “We’ve dragged our feet on Jumbo for a decade and a half; it’s time we did something.”

Ski areas expand their offerings

VAIL – Ski-area operators are continuing to expand their nonskiing amusements for the public. Last year, Park City Mountain Resort introduced an alpine coaster. This year, Vail Resorts is proposing to erect something similar at Adventure Ridge, its fun center at the top terminal of the gondola on Vail Mountain.

The gravity-powered coaster would have steel rails that would carry two-person sleds on a 3,000-foot long track down 300 vertical feet, reported theVail Daily. The elevated coaster would be used in both winter and summer.

Aspen Skiing Co. is also planning to expand its nonskiing amusements with an expanded terrain park for mountain boarding, a cross between mountain biking and snowboarding.

The Denver Post says Colorado’s Monarch Mountain is renegotiating its Forest Service use permit to include mountain biking.

Skier sets couloir descent record

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – By early April, ski instructor Mark Eakin had descended Corbet’s Couloir, the notoriously steep and narrow chute at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 214 times. Included in that staggering number is a single-day mark of 32 descents.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide describes the couloir as a run so vertical that it requires a controlled leap to enter. The average steepness down the 500 vertical feet is 40 degrees.

Eakin, a native of Virginia, said he was drawn to Jackson Hole by the late Doug Coombs, a famed alpinist who died in a fall in France a year ago. “This lady told me it made her sick just to look in there,” he said of the couloir. “It‘s made me feel that way too. I hear some people talk trash, but then they don’t go in it.”

Crested Butte pushes its expansion

CRESTED BUTTE – With ski season concluding at Crested Butte, ski company officials are estimating the total skier count at 375,000. But of that figure, about 175,0000 are actually tourists, and the argument made by ski area officials is that’s not enough to sustain a destination ski resort.

The ski area is pushing for an expansion onto Snodgrass Mountain that would provide substantially more intermediate terrain, something in relatively short supply at Crested Butte. The expansion was first proposed in about 1980, and subsequently authorized by the Forest Service in 1982, but the ski area withdrew its plans because of financial difficulty. The ski area revisited the subject in the mid-1990s, but withdrew in the face of community opposition.

Rancher cleared in wolf shooting

KETCHUM, Idaho – A rancher near Picabo, located in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, shot and killed one of three wolves seen harassing his cattle in late March. Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials cleared the rancher of any wrongdoing, reports theIdaho Mountain Express. The investigators linked a dead calf to the same wolves and are now trying to capture them to relocate them. Because of the area’s agriculture emphasis, say the state wildlife biologists, it’s unsuitable for wolves.

– compiled by Allen Best


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