Jury sides with Telluride developer

TELLURIDE – There was heartburn aplenty in Telluride after a jury ruled that a coveted parcel of undeveloped land at the town’s entrance is actually worth $50 million.

The town has been moving to condemn the property, to prevent any development. Estimates of the value had ranged from $25 to $60 million, with representatives of the town arguing for the lower figure.

The case has been in the works for about a decade. Last year, a compromise measure offered to Telluride voters would have allowed the owner of the 570 acres, Neal Blue, the right to develop some high-cost housing. In return, the town could have also built some low-cost affordable housing. But the remaining 91 percent of land would have been dedicated as open space.

Although the Town Council, the school board and the county commissioners all endorsed the compromise, the citizenry overwhelmingly voted against the compromise or even further negotiations.

Instead, the case was sent to jurors to set a fair price. Eleven jurors convened in Delta, a farming town located about two hours north, and came up with a price of $50 million, close to the $56.8 million value estimated by appraisers employed by the landowner, Neal Blue.

The town has three months to secure the $50 million. It has $30 million in assets that can be devoted to the acquisition, plus private fund-raisers have obtained pledges of $8 million. Less immediately, the town has legal bills estimated at $7 million, and the property will require an estimated $15 million in environmental restoration.

The Telluride Watch offered two very different reactions.

For Rob Schultheis, who has lived for several decades in Telluride, the news from the “jurors from Jerkwater Junction,” as he described Delta, was unsurprising. Delta, he said, looks down its nose at Telluride and its residents. Seth Cagin, publisher ofThe Watch, had an equally stinging reaction – but one aimed at Telluride. When you gamble, sometimes you lose, and we’ve lost big time,” he said while ruing the town’s rejection last year of the compromise.

Even if the $50 million is found, he believes Telluride has lost land it desperately needed for affordable housing.

“Telluride, he says, has become “Beverly Hills in the mountains; Aspensouth. We are now a community of very wealthy second-home owners, a few very wealthy families who can afford to live here full time, a dwindling and aging population of others who got in before the prices hit the stratosphere, and a small, static population of workers in subsidized housing. All of us are supported by a growing population of workers who commute long distances to their jobs or are undocumented immigrants living below the radar.”

Fraser on bid to regain icebox title

FRASER – Cold temperatures have long been venerated in Fraser, the site of a weather station that – along with Truckee, Calif., Big Piney, Wyo., and Gunnison, Colo. – routinely reported the coldest temperature in the nation. It depended upon the season, of course, but 30 below was almost common, and 40 below not unusual.

As early as 1956, it had begun calling itself the Icebox of the Nation. But somewhere along the line, a town in northern Minnesota called International Falls began claiming the same, dubious distinction. It also went one step further, filing for the trademark registration.

The ensuing settlement allowed Fraser to continue using the name within Colorado, which it does. A sign at the town’s entrance boldly proclaims its relative absence of warmth.

But Fraser officials have been biding their time this winter, suspecting that International Falls had failed to do the paperwork to renew its trademark.The Denver Post reports that they have now swooped in, filing for the lapsed trademark.

Jeff Durbin, the town manager in Fraser, told The Denver Post that he believes the town will prevail, owing to its longer-standing claim to use of the name. And International Falls does not particularly use the phrase. An event once called Icebox days has been renamed Blast on the Border (because it is near the Canadian border), explains thePost.

Just last summer, real estate interests in Fraser were calling for the name to be abandoned altogether. Durbin at that time concurred, saying it was hard to attract employees with a reputation for coldness. But town residents dissented loudly, showing their continued embrace of a title that few would want.

Beetle epidemic survives the cold

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – It’s been cold this winter, but not nearly cold enough to break the bark beetle epidemic that continues to wax in the area from Grand Lake to Vail.

In some areas, 90 percent of the lodgepole pine are expected to die.

A cold snap in January got to 25 below at night, almost cold enough to blunt the epidemic. But the chill lasted only briefly. Within a few nights, temperatures were up to 5 below. And daytimes got almost balmy, reported Cary Green, a forester on the White River National Forest, with highs in the high teens and 20s.

“It really takes three or four days to a week of temperatures colder than –35 degrees” to kill bark beetles, explained Joe Duda, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service.

Duda noted that temperatures have increased over time. It’s not so much that the high temperatures are increasing as that the cold temperatures aren’t as cold, he told theGlenwood Post.

Forest Magazineexplains that one previous beetle epidemic, which began in the late 1930s and continued into the early 1950s, was blunted by cold waves that hit 56 degrees below zero in Eagle.

Ski jumper’s innovation remembered

VAIL – They say that necessity is the mother of invention. That seems to be the case with Erich Windisch, a venerated ski instructor at Vail who has died at the age of 89.

The Vail Daily reports that while a ski jumper from Germany, Windisch pioneered the arms-down style of ski jumping that now prevails. While doing so makes sense, to reduce how much the air slows the jumper’s flight, Windisch had a more practical reason: he had suffered a dislocated shoulder.

Windisch spent much of his younger life in Garmisch, Austria, but was selected to the German Olympic team in 1952. In 1956, he immigrated to the United States, first teaching at the Broadmoor ski area in Colorado Springs and then at New Mexico’s Red River, before finally sinking roots at Summit County’s Arapahoe Basin.

Then, in 1968, Vail founder Pete Seibert persuaded Windisch to become ski patrol director at Vail. Vail ski patrollers then were a particularly unruly bunch, and one of those patrollers, Steve Boyd, believes the thinking was that Windisch, being German, might instill discipline into the patrollers.

He didn’t.

Windisch was fundamentally a ski instructor, and he taught and supervised until finally quitting a year ago at the age of 88. His greatest joy, other than his family, was seeing a student begin to link turns for the first time.

Granby still rebuilding from rampage

GRANBY – Granby’s open wounds from Marvin Heemeyer’s wild and crazy rampage in June 2004 are gradually healing. The latest footnote is the completion of a new town hall to replace the one Heemeyer gutted with a fortified bulldozer during his spree that damaged or destroyed 13 buildings in Granby. A new library, which had previously been part of the town hall, has also been built in the area.

Heemeyer went on his spree on a Friday afternoon in alleged retaliation for mistreatment by town officials and assorted others. At the core of his complaint was a zoning decision that he believed was unjust and adverse to his muffler repair business.

Truckee ends use of biomass burner

TRUCKEE, Calif. – An experiment in burning of biomass at Truckee has ended with the decommissioning of the burner, a Biomax 15.

The burner produced little electricity since it was put into use in 2005, officials tell theSierra Sun. “It was quite labor intensive; we had to clean it continuously,” explained Shawn Mitchell, who represents the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District.

But another goal was to help the technology advance, and Scott Terrell, of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, believes it has done that. He says that he expects the technology of biomass burners will advance briskly in the next 10 yeas, and wood trimmings and forest residue may become a source of electricity in Truckee.

The decommissioned biomass plant originally cost $150,000. It may be sold for $25,000.

- compiled by Allen Best