Financial trouble hits resort

GRANBY – National financial uncertainties are causing a slow down in development in Granby, where a giant high-end flyfishing resort, called Orvis Shorefox, is being built. The project would build 600 housing units and 100 hotel units along the Colorado River.

There, development officials acknowledge what is described as a “change in long-term financing.”

“This is taking longer than expected, given the unsettled conditions in the financial markets and the continuing effects of the sub-prime meltdown,” said Susan Penta, a spokeswoman for Orvis Shorefox. The developers include Grand Elk Ranch, which is doing another project nearby, although for a market aimed at a lower price point.

Granby town officials said they would not allow further changes in the development plan until $30,282 owed to the town by developers gets paid. Some subcontractors are still awaiting payment for work done in 2006. “Shorefox Development is working to rectify this situation and intends to get it completed, but it will take additional time and certainly more time than was anticipated,” said Penta. She said recapitalization is expected “by the time the snow melts.”

Meanwhile, the would-be developers of a real-estate, golf and ski resort northwest of Truckee, Calif. have until April 8 to come up with the $16 million that would preclude foreclosure.The Sierra Sun reports that financial troubles led the lender, California Mortgage and Realty, to issue a foreclosure sale notice originally slated for Feb. 4 to recoup nearly $16 million in debt. Opponents of the project, who say it would sully a large undeveloped area, have been fighting the project for seven years.

Tunnel riles Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – Owners of 5,000 acres adjacent to Crested Butte are proposing to drill a milelong 8-by-10-foot tunnel into a mountain to determine the extent and quality of molybdenum deposits.

State regulators have approved the mile-long tunnel for the project, now called Lucky Jack, but the mining company must still receive authorization from Gunnison County and the Town of Crested Butte. Crested Butte last August adopted a moratorium on all development within the town’s watershed, which includes Mt. Emmons, where the molybdenum deposit is located. The moratorium has now been extended to June.

The deposit, the subject of intense displeasure in Crested Butte for the last 30 years, is estimated to contain 22 million tons of high-grade molybdenum ore and 220 million tons of low-grade molybdenum. The latter would make the deposit more extensive than that found at either the Henderson Mine, located near Berthoud Pass, or the Climax Mine, near Leadville.

An environmental group in Crested Butte has disputed the need for the new tunnel. Bob Slalter, mineral resource director of the High Country Citizens’ Alliance, predicted water quality problems, and declared that the real intent of the tunnel would be for future mining operations, not simply to document the ore body.

New resort takes shape near Vail

MINTURN – The camel is officially in the tent. Last week the Minturn Town Council approved on second reading the annexation of 4,300 acres of former mining lands planned for high-end real estate development.

Not yet authorized are a ski area, golf course and 1,700 homes proposed by the Ginn Co., a Florida-based developer. The property is located south of Vail and adjacent to the one-timing mining town of Red Cliff.

The story goes back to the late 1980s, more than a decade after zinc and lead mining operations in the area were suspended. A trio of lawyers began buying the properties, many of which had been purchased for back taxes by speculators. Ginn bought the property several years ago for $35 million.

There has been some grumbling in Minturn all along by residents who fear the impacts. Already, the Main Street becomes crowded morning and night with commuters headed to homes in Leadville, 35 miles away.  There is no easy way to reroute traffic in the narrow valley.

The agreement between Minturn and Red Cliff calls for new sidewalks along Main Street, a recreation center, water-system upgrades and a large amount of affordable housing.

Because Minturn has very few sales, town officials for years have struggled with how to make ends meet. Had Minturn not embraced the project, the land owner would have been granted the right to build at least 179 houses, plus accessory units, under Colorado law. Some believe that Red Cliff, the other adjoining town, would have cut a deal with Ginn had Minturn not done so.

Telluride to tackle flooding

TELLURIDE – Three times in the last century a creek that descends through the middle of Telluride before emptying into the San Miguel River has overflown in its banks, the most recent case being last summer.

Last summer’s deluge, in which Coronet Creek carried 500 cubic feet per second of water, was tame compared with other summertime cloudbursts in 1969 and 1914, which resulted in floods of 9,000 cfs, and 14,000 cfs, respectively. Still, last year’s flood was enough to cause town officials to take action.

They have now agreed to spend $1.5 million during the next two years to enlarge culverts, increasing the capacity of the streambed to 500 cfs. That, obviously, won’t handle the bigger floods, but it will require removing 380 dump trucks of material. The creek will also have to be cleaned out again every year, as yet more material from the basins continues to erode.

Because of all the houses and other structures built along the creek’s banks, it’s impossible to carve out a channel large enough to accommodate the sort of flood that the past suggests is likely in the future.

Bus ridership surges in Aspen

ASPEN – Bus ridership is up substantially this winter in the Roaring Fork Valley, causing strain on the Roaring Fork Transit Authority and friction on the governing board.

Dan Blankenship, director of RFTA, cites decreases in day-skier parking in Snowmass Village, higher parking fees in Aspen, and soaring gas prices. Repeated winter storms have also made driving on Highway 82 taxing this winter.

Buses have been so full during prime commuting hours this winter that some passengers have been forced to stand for extended trips, reportsThe Aspen Times. Blankenship says the agency, despite substantial pay increases and benefits, has a hard time hiring and holding onto drivers. Ultimately, more affordable housing is needed.

Volume last year was 4.45 million passengers, an increase of nearly 9 percent over 2006. At current rates, the growth in passenger volume will be 33 percent over a four-year period – a growth that directors had envisioned for the next 15 years. RFTA runs buses from Aspen nearly 80 miles down-valley to Rifle. As a short-term fix, RFTA is buying two new 57-passenger buses.

Big spring avalanche season

ASPEN – With a record winter already on the books in many areas of the West, officials are concerned about the potential for massive spring snowslides.

A historically active avalanche area is just outside Aspen, on the drainages of Castle and Conundrum creeks. In 1994, a massive slide killed one man sleeping in a teepee along Conundrum Creek. Another slide, farther down the valley along Castle Creek, prevented rescuers from getting to the site.

The glut of snow has to come down either as water or as potentially devastating avalanches, Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo toldThe Aspen Times. For now, officials are taking a do-nothing approach. No homes are immediately threatened.

South of Telluride, along Lizard Head Pass, mitigation of the avalanche threat last year caused the highway gates to drop for only 50 minutes. This year, they have been down for nearly 89 hours, reportsThe Telluride Watch. Up at the Telluride Ski Resort, Pat Ahern, ski patrol director, estimated that patrollers have used twice the amount of explosives for avalanche mitigation this year, as compared to last.

Swastika allowed to promote play

PARK CITY, Utah – A swastika appeared on the marquee of Park City’s premier theater, the Egyptian, and police were summoned. But they did nothing. The symbol, used by Adolf Hitler’s Nazis, among others, had been posted for a presentation of a musical called “Cabaret,” which was set in pre-World War II Germany.

Police toldThe Park Record the symbol was protected by freedom of speech.

Play promoters had worried about public response, going so far as to query Jewish groups beforehand. Jews were among the groups who suffered most by the Nazi premise of Aryan superiority.

But Josh Aaronson, a rabbi, had seen no problems with use of the symbol. The play, he said, doesn’t glorify Nazis. It was, he said, a non-issue.

– Allen Best