Growth argument splits Telluride

TELLURIDE – The angst continues in Telluride. Despite its reputation as a liberal enclave, the town is split by political factions, loosely described as the pro-growthers and the no-growthers.

The arguments were apparent in two major disputes in recent years, one involving housing at a former mining site called Idarado and the second about whether to accept a negotiated settlement for multiple uses of a large parcel called the Valley Floor. The settlement, which town voters rejected, would have allowed some affordable housing, some development and some open space. Instead, the town followed through on condemnation, at a cost of $45 million.

Even during the boom years, Seth Cagin, publisher ofThe Telluride Watch, argued that the town was going about things all wrong. The town needed more development, he said, and the tourism economy needed invigoration.

“Having feasted on a real-estate boom now gone bust, we find ourselves to be a tourist town with precious few tourists,” he writes. “We have spent most of the last two decades building the infrastructure for a gilded age that is likely past. No place lived more on the bubble than Telluride, and few places are less equipped to recover from the Great Recession.”

Cagin counts himself as supporting growth. As for the other viewpoint, he describes its philosophical mooring in this way: “Smaller is always better, by definition. Development never pays its own way, so the more exactions you can get from it the better – hopefully, enough exactions to stop it cold. Sustainability means protection of open space first and foremost, because it limits development … Downzoning is always good, and density is always bad. We have seen the enemy – the vulgar overdevelopment of other ski towns in the Rockies – and we will fight it at all costs.”

For opponents of growth, he says, “the current crisis only proves the argument: Development has clearly failed us.”

“As a veteran of many of these battles, I have come to the conclusion that the two perspectives can’t be reconciled. We just see things too differently,” he says

Cagin’s comments spurred a great response on the newspaper’s website by bloggers. Some chided him as clueless. “Growth for growth’s sake just ain’t happening anymore,” said one.

“To realize the city you dream of, you’d definitely need a diversified economy and probably easier access,” says another. “The good news is that your model is available. Vail has easier access, and lo and behold – it’s bigger.”

Bloggers also cited Aspen. One said Aspen got it right by approving development of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, resulting in a “year-round vibrant and sustainable economy,” making Aspen “arguably the best ski resort in the world and certainly one of the most artistic, interesting, diverse, innovative and scholarly of any community in the world.”

The same available evidence leads another reader to the opposite conclusion. “It’s hardly the epitome of a tight-knit community,” write the blogger. “On the contrary, it’s very disjointed and fragmented.”


Architect finishes green trophy home

ASPEN – Dean Moffatt, an architect, has been working in developing low-impact housing since the 1960s, but often got pushback from clients. Finally, about six years ago, he found an opportunity to execute all his ideas.

He secured a plot of land on what Aspenites call the “backside” of Aspen Mountain. The house of 3,700 square feet has a geoexchange system for winter warming and summer cooling, and photovoltaic panels connected to batteries that can store electricity for up to five days of use.

The design provides passive-solar heating and structural-insulated panels, called SIPs, which minimize heat loss.

TheAspen Times notes that a real estate brochure states that the lot “can easily accommodate a helicopter landing site.”

“Is there a certain level of hypocrisy in this?” Moffat asks. Of course there is, he answers. But any development has some level of hypocrisy, he says. Some type of development would have been done on the old mining claim, he says. He believes the house he built was best for the site, located 5.5 miles from Aspen and 2,000 feet above it.


Tourism spikes at national parks

JACKSON, Wyo. – Tourism numbers in the national parks adjacent to Jackson Hole have been soaring, but sales taxes collected by city officials in Jackson have plummeted.

Yellowstone National Park reported an increase of 11 percent in July, and Grand Teton visits jumped 8 percent for August.

But sales tax revenues in Jackson have declined 19 percent since the start of July. “Every American family is hurting, and the people that can afford to take a vacation aren’t able to really spend as much,” said Mark Barron, the mayor.

Meanwhile, Jackson residents got a chance to glimpse the new Ken Burns series: “National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” The series, which premiered in Telluride during MountainFilm in May, will be shown on PBS starting Sept. 27.

Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, tells theJackson Hole News&Guide that his group is thrilled with the series and expects the exposure could cause a “significant increase” in national park visits across the country.


Mega-development changes hands

MINTURN – The real-estate shuffle continues. Bobby Ginn has relinquished his giant ambitions for one-time mining properties in Minturn to a company called Crave Real Estate Ventures. The company is partly owned by an investment company called Lubert Adler, a major investor in Ginn’s project.

The new face at the 4,300-acre project will be Dave Kleinkopf, who will take over day-to-day operations – although on a part-time basis – in Minturn. A former Intrawest executive, he helped develop base-area projects at Snowmass Village and Winter Park.

Of course, he spoke glowingly about the property. “I think it is the greatest piece of ski area and resort real estate in North America,” he said.

Ginn had big visions for the big property, located between the towns of Vail and Red Cliff, but which earlier this year was annexed into Minturn. Included is the former company town of Gilman. Ginn got conceptual approval for 1,700 housing units and other resort features, including a golf course and a small ski area. Portions of the project had been in a Superfund site.

In developing major golf-based real estate ventures in Florida and elsewhere in the Southeast, Ginn got caught by the undertow of the real estate implosion.


Aspen reports third bear attack

ASPEN – The bear woes continue in Aspen, where a couple who had lived in the same neighborhood since the 1960s heard their black Labs barking ferociously.

When David Berley went downstairs to investigate, reportsThe Aspen Times, he encountered a bear in his kitchen, which swiped his face, leaving a deep wound on his cheek that required several stitches. Retreating, the bear following him, Berley opened a kitchen window then took refuge in his office while his wife, Mary, locked herself in the upstairs bedroom. The bear vamoosed through the kitchen window, leaving behind a pool of urine in the entryway where it had been confronted by the home’s patriarch and the three dogs.

This summer’s bear troubles – this was the third time a bear had laid a paw on a person – has had Aspen city officials wondering whether the crab-apple trees are part of the draw. They are not the entrée, they agree, but a tasty supplement that cannot be allowed to continue. Next year, the officials intend to spray the trees with a chemical that will abort the production of fruit.


Intrawest faces financing deadline

COPPER MOUNTAIN – What will Intrawest do when its big loan comes due in October? Gary Rodgers, chief executive of Copper Mountain, one of the company’s resorts, spilled no secrets, but he did say that Intrawest has financing options that were unavailable eight months ago. But he stayed mum about any possible suitors, reportsThe Summit Daily News.

Rodgers also reported that Copper Mountain met its energy saving goals by cutting electricity use 8 percent, natural gas use by 9 percent, and diesel fuel by 7 percent. Rodgers also said Copper may cut its contracts for renewable energy credits, the so-called green tags that allow ski areas to boast that they’re 100 percent wind powered. “We’re struggling with whether they are worth it,” Rodgers said. Instead, he said, Copper Mountain will invest resources in local projects, such as retrofitting lighting.

– Allen Best


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