Telluride tackles home energy abuse

TELLURIDE – Aspen, as it often does, led the way in 2000, when officials from the city and Pitkin County adopted something called the renewable energy mitigation program, sometimes shortened to its acronym of REMP.

REMP set a budget for energy use for homes. Homes below 5,000 square feet were exempted, but homes larger than that and houses with energy gobbling outdoorfeatures –  swimming pools, hot tubs, snowmelt systems on driveways – had to even out their energy budgets.

Homeowners had the option of compensating for this energy obesity with solar panels, geoexchange systems or other renewable energy systems, or paying a mitigation fee that covered energy upgrades elsewhere in the Aspen area.

Since then, several towns and counties have adapted Aspen’s basic ideas to their own needs. Eagle County (where Vail is located) and Crested Butte have similar programs, as does Snowmass Village.

Other jurisdictions have simply elevated the building codes. Such is the case with Mountain Village, Telluride’s slopeside sister town, and San Miguel County. As homes get larger, they must incrementally meet a correspondingly higher HERS rating, which is a measure of energy efficiency. In effect, those programs set the bar higher than what is typically found in even the newest widely accepted building code used by municipalities and other jurisdictions.

Telluride is now considering its own program, called Telluride Energy Mitigation Program, or TEMP, which borrows from other programs and innovates for local circumstances. The proposal would not penalize larger homes in the way that Aspen’s original program did, but does take aim at heated garages, outdoor swimming pools, saunas and heated driveways.

The program also seeks to encourage recycling and recovery of materials. The original proposal called for mandatory recycling, but Chris Hawkins, the town’s planning director when the regulations were being drawn up, said there was a lot of pushback. He noted that no system had been set up to accommodate recycling of building materials in Telluride.


Panel considers climate impacts

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Temperatures have tilted downward for the last couple of winters in Colorado and other locations. Does this disprove the greenhouse gas theory?

No, say scientists. Local cooling aside, the global story continues to show a warming planet – the hottest decade on record, according to a story in theNew York Times last week.

Joe Barsugli, a climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spoke recently in Glenwood Springs. The broader picture he painted was of accumulated evidence: warmer temperatures in the last 150 years, oceans that are a half-foot higher, and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that have increased sharply.

Compared to the last half of the 20th century, he said, Colorado is projected to warm 2.5 degrees by 2025 and 4 degrees by 2050.

Just what this will mean for everybody remains uncertain. Winters will become shorter, and hence there is likely to be less snow. Modeling in the last year has started to coalesce around the idea that there will be less precipitation overall.

That means a shorter, earlier runoff – somewhat corresponding with the drought of the early 21st century. Ken Murphy, of Rock Gardens Rafting in Glenwood Springs, reported that by switching to smaller rafts, the industry has so far been able to keep its customers happy and its revenues steady.

Impacts to wildlife and plants are also likely, but hard to foretell.

“I think we demonstrated that there will be an impact,” said David Dittloff, of the National Wildlife Federation. “As for the specific type of impacts we can expect, it’s still a little too early to say.”


Developers look to brighter future

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Most of the building has stopped, and many carpenters are out of work. But that doesn’t mean ambitions have completely died.

TheTelluride Watch tells of a hotel developer at Mountain Village who is back before municipal officials with a familiar plea:

Just another foot higher, to make the economics work.

Mountain Village has allowed maximum heights of 86 feet and 78 feet for hotels built in recent years, The current proposal from Robert Harper of Dallas-based Unity Hunt, is for a maximum 79 feet.

That added height, said Harper, will allow a seventh floor and 40 hotel rooms.

If history at Mountain Village is any guide, this tango will take some time to play out. It’s already been playing since 2005, and, said Harper, the project wouldn’t happen if it were approved tomorrow.

“The goal in gaining approval for the project is to be positioned to go when the market recovers,” he said.

In Vail, work is also under way in expectation that the darkness of the real estate economy will recede. Among the largest projects is  Ever Vail, which would represent $1 billion in investment at a site down-valley from the existing major base village.

The Vail Daily notes that the project is, at a bare minimum, two years away from happening – and likely longer. “There is no question that in this market today we would not launch this project,” said Rob Katz, the chief executive of Vail Resorts, the developer and ski area operator. “Timing is everything with projects like these.”

Discussions with town officials have focused mostly on parking. The company proposes 1,551 parking spaces, but not all town officials are confident those will be enough. The town has had a severe problem in recent years as municipal parking garages have routinely filled, resulting in cars lining a highway frontage road for several miles.


Park City debates merits of graffiti art

PARK CITY, Utah – Graffiti: art, or marketing hype?

As Park City prepared to host the Sundance Film Festival,The Park Record examined all three options in its story about attractive drawings found at three locations: a shed, a utility box and the side of a building that houses a coffee shop.

One theory was that the structures had been defaced by an individual simply identified as Banksy. He is called a graffiti artist, and he has a certain amount of international celebrity – and also a film to his credit called “Exit through the Gift Shop,” to be shown at Sundance.

Banksy had reportedly pledged not to post graffiti while in Park City, but police had been warned that Banksy copycats might. And there was another theory – that this was part of a marketing effort.

“People promoting Sundance films or movies in other festivals running at the same time have long employed unorthodox techniques to create buzz for their films, but the amount of publicity that Banksy and his film are receiving as a result of the graffiti is unusual,” noted the paper.

Some of the work was being removed, but owners of the coffee shop were considering leaving the graffiti. It was apparently interesting enough that some passers-by were stopping to take pictures of it, sometimes posing with the graffiti.

The film festival, now in its 26th year, was started by Robert Redford. In a press conference, he said the festival had been sliding in recent years. “We were flatlining, and we needed to get fresh again,” he said. Consequently, the theme for this year’s festival is “renewed rebellion.”

Redford said the festival was always meant to be loose and fun, but with that came some risks, including ambush marketers who have clouded the festival’s mission. The recession this year will more likely see fewer people using the festival to promote their own products and parties.

This year, the festival was scheduled to have 100 feature films and 70 short films.


Resort town real estate still stagnant

ASPEN – Building permits for $69 million in construction were pulled in Aspen last year. This compares with the peak year of $300 million in 2006.

But last year was still busier than after the lull of 9/11, with $56 million worth of permits pulled in 2002, notesThe Aspen Times.

A pair of contractors tells the newspaper that they don’t expect to see much work this year, as architects currently aren’t busy.

– Allen Best