High court sides with Telluride

TELLURIDE – The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld Telluride’s right to condemn 572 acres of land outside its boundaries for preservation of open space.

The property, sprinkled with dandelions in spring, cows in summer and notable for its lack of buildings, was once owned by the operator of the last big mine in Telluride, the Idarado. In the 1980s, it was acquired by Neal Blue, the CEO of a military contracting firm, General Atomic, based in San Diego.

The town, by public vote, condemned the land in 2002 and borrowed nearly $10 million to buy the land. In 2003, it made an offer of $19.5 million, which was refused. In 2004, responding to lobbying from Blue’s company, San Miguel Valley Corp., Colorado legislators passed a law that forbade home-rule municipalities from condemning property outside their borders for open space preservation.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-1 vote, sided with the town, ruling that the 2004 law violated the scope of eminent domain granted to home-rule municipalities by the Colorado Constitution. The constitution trumps legislative laws.

The long-simmering case leaped to front pages across the Rockies in 2007 when a jury concluded that the condemned land was worth $50 million and set a deadline three months later for the payment to be made. With nickle-and-dime events and donations of a few million dollars here and there, some $24 million was raised to supplement town and county funds, beating the deadline in the nick of time.

Breck balances green and history

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge has been fiercely protective of the historical integrity of its 19th century Victorian architecture. But it has had a hard time reconciling that wish with the growing emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy of the 21st century.

For the time, the town is striking a compromise, reports theSummit Daily News. Photovoltaic collectors can be installed, but only parallel to existing roofs. They must also be coordinated with the roof’s color.

Is this Solomon-like justice? No, says Sean McPherson, a mechanical engineer with Innovative Energy, a Breckenridge firm. Solar collectors already have a long-term payback, even when gathering maximum sunshine. To gather maximum sun they must face south, tilted to an angle of 45 degrees. Custom-colored panels might be available, but the cost would be through the roof.

At the risk of alienating purists, council member Jeffrey Bergeron supports the revised guidelines. “In the old days, we could be very rigid about maintaining a precise historical character,” he told the newspaper. “When you look at it in terms of today’s times, in terms of escalating energy and costs and just what’s the right thing to do for the planet, I think you have to be a lot more flexible.”

The town has been trying for several years to align form with function. A case in point: windows that are replaced must be true to historical antecedent, which strictly speaking would be single pane. Single-pane windows leak heat like sieves. Tim Gagen, the town manager, said the town has worked for several years to make the code conducive to energy efficiency.

State sends teen-ager to convention

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Wyoming Democrats are sending a high-school student from Jackson Hole to their national convention in Denver this summer.

The student, Willie Neal, 18, fervently supports Barack Obama. He will be among three teen-agers from Wyoming at the national convention. Neal is an eight-time state cross-country skiing champion in Wyoming and the son of two doctors.

Democrats who gathered in Jackson Hole for their state convention also heard from a local resident, formerNewsweekeditor-in-chief Bill Broyles. It was, some delegates toldJackson Hole News&Guide, among the best speeches they had ever heard.

Broyles spoke about war and energy, topics with which he has great familiarity. He worked in a refinery to put himself through college, and his father and grandfather worked in the Texas oil fields. In his speech, Broyles attacked the Republican Party for its failure to show initiative in the energy realm.

He is now a screenwriter. His movies have included “Apollo 13” and “Castaway.” But in his younger life, he was also a Marine in the Vietnam War. In his speech, he also attacked Republicans for the Iraq War.

“When you send men and women to war, you don’t just ask them to risk their lives. You ask them to do what every fiber of their being and every value taught them tells them not to do: You ask them to kill,” he told the crowd. “There better be a good reason. Your country’s survival better be at stake. Because if it’s not, if you abuse their patriotism and their sacrifice, then you create a hole in their souls, and a hole in the soul of America.”

Town ponders oil and tourism

WHISTLER, B.C. – As gas moved past the $4 mark in the Seattle area, Bob Barnett of Whistler’sPique newsmagazine ruminates on what increased fuel prices will mean for British Columbia. He doesn’t see much silver lining in these storm clouds.

Rising oil prices may quiet some of the big bang from the 2010 Winter Olympics, he suggests. By then, oil will be $150 a barrel, predicts Jeff Rubin, chief economist of CIBC World Markets, and it will be $225 a barrel by 2012.

Meanwhile, the British Columbia government has been pushing development of its tourism industry. “But if it’s getting more expensive to travel, and perhaps more difficult to fly, those new B.C. resorts and lodges are likely to be competing with the existing ones for smaller slices of a pie that is shrinking, rather than growing,” says Barnett in his column.

One thought for Whistler and other resorts is to extend a handshake to the rapidly growing population of the Vancouver area. While Whistler has had some success in appealing to these new residents who come from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India and the Philippines, it’s a tough sell. Few have a history of skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and mountaineering, he notes.

Lynx trump backcountry huts

SUMMIT COUNTY – After a long hiatus, the Summit Huts Association is studying potential for new backcountry huts.

TheSummit Daily News notes that the association, which already has three huts, is wary of environmental impacts after a previous proposal was scuttled due to concerns about impacts to lynx. That hut proposed for the area between Vail Pass and Copper Mountain was withdrawn several years ago because of concerns about intrusions into the habitat of the endangered Canada lynx. This time, hut association directors want to be sure there are no major impacts before they move forward, the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, worries about impact to lynx have caused the shelving of a hut proposed near Camp Hale, between Vail and Leadville. TheVail Daily says that the 10th Mountain Hut Association has withdrawn plans to build a hut in the area. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study found the hut would have hurt the ability of lynx to thrive there. It is considered a key connecting area for broader wilderness areas.

President Bush gets a rude reception

PARK CITY, Utah – President George W. Bush visited Park City to help shake the pockets of donors at a Deer Valley function to bolster Republican campaigns. ThePark Record has no report of how well the money-rustling went, but it does report that Bush was greeted with crude signs and hand gestures

These hand gestures apparently weren’t friendly hand waves. Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds described them as “classless and embarrassing.”

To ensure the president’s safety, 47 law officers were called out to help monitor the motorcade route. The cost to local taxpayers for overtime pay was $30,000.

The county commissioners supported the expenditure, but not necessarily Bush. “Frankly I don’t care whether he lives or dies,” said one commissioner, Sally Elliott. “But don’t let him die in Summit County.”

Sun Valley sets turbine guidelines

KETCHUM, Idaho – Officials in Blaine County are taking the first steps to establish rules about where and how wind turbines can be located. The rules would be applicable in the rural areas outside the towns of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey.

Like most mountain valleys, those areas are largely shielded from steady wind. No large turbines are expected. Instead, 25- to 30-foot tall turbines are likely, primarily adjacent to homes and perhaps businesses, and probably well away from the resort areas.

TheIdaho Mountain Express reports support from officials. In an editorial, it likewise blesses the effort.

– Allen Best