Town continues fighting mine

CRESTED BUTTE – Although the immediate threat of development of a molybdenum mine at Crested Butte has receded, opponents – and local governments – are taking no chances.

The Town Council a year ago declared a moratorium on new developments in the town’s watershed, which is drained by Coal Creek. That time has been used to modify the regulations governing what can be done within that watershed. The revised regulations stipulate the standards for environmental quality, which must be met by any major project. In other words they specify what standards must be attained, instead of saying what cannot be done. The regulations, which are still being reviewed, are believed to be more legally defensible.

Community groups also continue to gird for a long battle. There are two primary groups. One of those groups, the High Country Citizens’ Alliance, was formed 30 years ago to fight the mine. When that threat receded, the coalition went on to take on other tasks.

But with the “threat” – as the mine is seen from the community’s perspective – now returned, the coalition has many more guns than it did 30 years ago. One of the most powerful tools is a potentially influential legal firm with a significant presence in Washington, D.C. The firm, DLA Piper, has a budget of $54 million annually for free legal work. One task of opponents, reports theCrested Butte News, is to get Congress to withdraw 5,000 acres of federal lands near Crested Butte from potential mineral development.

Plastic bags vanishing all over West

TAOS, N.M. – The call for a ban on plastic shopping bags is sweeping the Rockies, from Alberta to New Mexico.

Taos is among those communities now considering a ban, both within the town and in the broader Taos County. TheTaos News says one store, Cid’s Food Market, has ceased to give out plastic bags and has instead persuaded many Taoseños to use cloth bags.

The idea originated in Ireland, where a 15 cent tax is applied to each plastic bag given out in hopes of encouraging use of recycled plastic bags or of cloth bags. In Canmore, Alberta, at the entry to Banff National Park, a plastics industry representative argues that banning plastic shopping bags will cause people to buy more plastic bags for use in their home trash containers. Only 15 percent of the bags are discarded completely, says Grantland Cameron, of the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association.

Telluride’s homegrown environmental group, the Sheep Mountain Alliance, also wants a ban. But Kris Bartosiak says the initiative is misguided. Plastic bags consume 40 percent less energy in production than paper bags, Bartosiak says in a letter inThe Telluride Watch, and release up to 94 percent fewer waterborne wastes through their production cycle.

Mud season rolls into the Rockies

MINTURN – With the big snows of last winter, mountain towns have been hit with an especially muddy spring.

Such was the case just west of Vail, where a mountain known for its mudslides through the ages once again squirted mud onto a highway. One slide, in 1984, closed Interstate 70. After that, highway engineers inserted drainage pipes into the slow-moving mud in Meadow Mountain, to draw out the water that results in mudslides.

But at Carbondale, the results of this interim season were far more frightening. There, about 20 miles downvalley from Snowmass, a fire burned 1,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of 150 to 200 people from their homes.

The Aspen Times notes a common surprise that such a fierce fire could erupt on the heels of such a profoundly snowy winter. “Many locals haven’t taken the snow tires off their vehicles yet, and many are still feeling the wintertime blues from so many dreary days,” writes the newspaper’s Scott Condon.

Vail seeks a housing partner

VAIL – Vail’s Town Council is still looking for a partner to redevelop Timber Ridge, the 198-apartment complex on the north side of Interstate 70, across from Cascade Village. Timber Ridge is the town’s largest affordable housing complex, and it would have gone

into the private sector, presumably to be developed for the high-end market had town officials not stepped in to buy it in 2003. The town still owes $22 million on the property and maintenance costs are substantial.

But the town has now talked with three potential partners in the redevelopment, and found all proposals lacking. First was Corum Real Estate Group, then Vail Resorts and most recently a development company from Dallas that is working on redeveloping the Lionshead parking structure. The rental units are currently leased for use by employees of Vail Resorts. The town would like to see the land redeveloped, probably with a mixture of market-rate and affordable housing.

Telluride ponders possible toll

TELLURIDE – Interstate 70 isn’t the only place where the idea of a toll road is being talked about. The last 2 miles of the highway into Telluride is owned by the town, which is finding its real estate transfer tax, although very large, still insufficient to carry the load of major infrastructure work. One of the key projects is maintenance of that road, and the task won’t come cheap. “Whether or not it has a year or two left in it before it becomes the Santa Fe Trail is mostly a function of weather at this point,” says Frank Bell, the town manager. Among the ideas that he and Mayor Stu Fraser mentioned in a recent interview with The Telluride Watch is the idea of applying tolls. Just how serious they are about the idea wasn’t clear, but one blogger on the newspaper’s website had a succinct reaction: absolutely terrible idea.


Gated communities drawn criticism

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The Planning Commission for Teton County has recommended that new gated communities be barred. A staff planner says there are anywhere from five to 20 gated communities in Teton County. One of those gated developments, a place called Teton Pines, is the declared primary home of Vice President Dick Cheney.

TheJackson Hole News&Guide, in an editorial, concurs with the recommended ban. “Gated subdivisions create an ‘us and them’ environment, an atmosphere alien to Jackson Hole,” says the newspaper in an editorial. “Gates in Jackson Hole should be used to keep the cows in. That’s all.”

One dissenting voice is from a planning commissioner, Joe Palmer. “I can think of people who would need a gated community,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s wise to forbid them.”


Tahoe pushing for Winter Olympics

LAKE TAHOE, Nev./Calif. – The push continues in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area for a bid to host the Winter Olympics. A poll commissioned by proponents found that 51 percent of those surveyed support the idea of Reno and Lake Tahoe hosting a future Olympics, while 31 percent do not. The remaining 18 percent are unsure, reports the Associated Press. Squaw Valley, which is in that same general area, hosted the Olympics in 1960, unleashing a great deal of development. Much of the existing infrastructure dates from the 1950s and 1960s. Hosting the Olympics, say some supporters, would trigger infrastructure improvements.

– Allen Best

In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale