By Allen Best
Pot shop gets variance
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Breckenridge walks a tight rope in how it deals with dispensaries of medical marijuana. Along with the majority of Coloradans, town residents voted several years ago to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. And, taking another step, they voted to legalize it within Breckenridge altogether.
Still, marijuana remains a touchy subject. Town officials do not allow dispensaries at all on ground-floor locations in the Main Street business district, where tourists congregate. Further, the council had adopted a moratorium on new dispensaries in the same area.
As such, the case of a dispensary called Medicine Man posed significant questions of justice when its proprietor recently appeared before the town council. The Summit Daily News explains the business had been operating out of a second-story location on Main Street. Then, because other tenants of the building complained about the odor, the landowner did not renew the lease.
The business owner, Frank Torrealba, told council members that he found another Main Street location, one that would have the entire top level of a building, eliminating complaints of odors. Further, there’s an off-street entrance and, much to the liking of at least some council members, he will have no outside sign.
“The signage piece is a big deal for me,” said Councilman Eric Mamula, explaining his support for a variance to the town’s moratorium. “That’s the part that affects our guests.”
The same night, the council passed a law prohibiting the smell of marijuana from being perceptible outside private homes where it is grown.
Thin line between peaceful, boring
BASALT, Colo. – Leaf-blowers seem to be the cause of the loudest complaints provoking Basalt’s adoption of a noise ordinance.
The law limits most noisy activities, such as lawnmowers and power tools, to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., reports The Aspen Times. It allows some exceptions, such as for music on patio bars on Friday and Saturday nights.
But council members, while wanting greater tranquility, also have been warned by one of their own, Pete McBride, that they are in danger of being a “fuddy-duddy” town.
Banff considers public art
BANFF, Alberta – Town officials in Banff are considering regulations that would mandate developers chip in for public art. “We believe there’s significant value to public art,” said Randall McKay, manager of planning and development.
The Rocky Mountain Outlook notes that requiring public art as part of development is common in many places in North America. For example, in Vancouver, developers of more than 100,000 square feet must contribute a fee per buildable foot to a public art process.
Efficient an easier sell than green
KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum and Blaine County are considering whether to elevate the requirements for buildings to ensure they use less energy and other resources.
Such regulations have tended to be controversial, because they usually raise building costs. But improved building techniques and designs lower utility costs.
Checking in at a few places with prior experience in such matters, the Idaho Mountain Express reports no clear consensus. One of the problems seems to be the word “green.” Many contractors hear that and want nothing to do with it. And in Clark County, Wash., located north of Portland, that protest was enough to quash a mandatory code.
Aspen had the same problem, the chief building official there said, and so replaced “green” with “efficiency.”
Ketchum’s Green Building Team leans toward recommendation that the city adopt the National Green Building Standard, which requires improved insulation and other building techniques, but does not require renewable energy, such as solar collectors.
“The goal is to take Ketchum from behind the curve to slightly ahead of the curve, but not so much ahead that we quash construction,” said team member and general contractor Steve Kearns.
In Aspen, a cautious recovery
ASPEN, Colo. – Mirroring reports from other mountain valleys and, indeed, much of the United States, The Aspen Times reports signs of an improved economy. But one architect says he refuses to string together “cautious” and “optimism” into the same sequence.
“We’re cautious as hell,” said John Cottle, a partner in Cottle Carr Yaw Architects, a firm with roots 40 years deep in the Roaring Fork Valley, where Aspen is located. “It’s still a very sober environment out there.”
Construction remains down, of course, even if the sale of high-end homes began accelerating in 2010, particularly late in the year. Prices are down 30 to 50 percent from their pre-recession euphoria. As elsewhere, activity has picked up most quickly in Aspen itself, with less friskiness in outlying communities such as Basalt and Carbondale.
Tourism, of course, survived the recession much better. But even as occupancy rates pick up, room rates continue to decline. One firm that rents luxury condominiums in Aspen told the newspaper that occupancy levels have increased more than 10 percent this year, but the average daily room rate is down. “They know, like we do, that there’s room at the inn,” said Chuck Frias, co-owner of the firm, Frias Properties.
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. – The Hotel Capella Telluride is no more. Opened just two years ago, with service levels and other quality in the same league as all the continent’s best hotels, it has been rechristened the Hotel Madeline Telluride.
How long it will remain that is anybody’s guess. The $200 million property had a note of $156 million – and the developer needed to sell real estate in the project’s condo-hotel to pay the construction debt. He has sold exactly none, which by October was enough of a problem that the lender initiated foreclosure proceedings.
The primary lender is Swedbank, the leading bank in Sweden, which got involved after Lehman brothers tail-spinned into oblivion at the start of the Great Recession. The Telluride Watch explains that the new name pays homage to Sweden’s Princess Madeline.
In January, it was widely rumored that the hotel would close as of February, because of continued financial difficulties. Now, it looks like the hotel is here to stay – at least through ski season.
But two other high-end properties that had been planned in Mountain Village, the slope-side town at Telluride, never got off the ground. The parcel of land where a Rosewood hotel was planned has now fallen into foreclosure for the second time in two years. The first developer, New York’s Aaron Honigman, couldn’t repay a $50 million bridge loan to begin construction on the property two years ago.
So, the junior lender, Ramsfield Hospitality Finance, ended up owning the land. But little got done there, save for some condominiums that sold at far less than the prices being paid in 2007.
“The market is very difficult right now,” said Richard Mandel, president of Manhattan-based Ramsfield Hospitality Finance. “The land isn’t worth as much as it used to be worth.”
Bank of America, the senior lender, could end up owning the land if no one bids. The Telluride Daily Planet said the price will start at just more than $25 million.