Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Beached whales and no high tide
WHITEFISH, Mont. – With the financial waters still at low tide, what do you do with the various beached whales of development concepts hatched during the last decade?
Consider a project near the base of Whitefish Mountain Resort. There, a 50-lot subdivision called The Glades at Big Mountain was approved by the local government in 2008.
In retrospect, the project looked suspect even during the high tide of financial exuberance. It’s below the snowline on the mountain, and to remedy this inadequacy plans were in place to erect a chairlift. Each lot buyer was to throw in $10,000.
Few people have bought lots, and the ski area wants to vacate the subdivision, reports the Whitefish Pilot.
“It’s almost impossible to think anyone would buy these lots,” said Dan Graves, chief executive of Whitefish Mountain Resort. “They have no real estate value. If I could sell them for $50,000, I’d be lucky. I don’t know if it’s good to go into further debt for this phase.”
One person who did buy a lot wants to hold out. “Giving up devalues my property,” said John Constenius. But Graves responded that he didn’t expect to see 50 lots sold anytime soon. “I don’t think it will be in my lifetime.”
The Whitefish City Council has twice extended the deadline for completion of improvements, but consented to the resort’s desire to scrap what amounted to a bad idea.
In Idaho, the future of the once ebullient Tamarack Resort remains in doubt. The ostensible owner, Jean-Pierre Boespflug, is on the lam after missing a court hearing over commitments to pay Bank of America.
But similar to Whitefish, lot and homeowners at Tamarack hold out hope for some kind of revival several years after bankruptcy. The ski area resumed limited operations this winter after a year of suspended activity. To help satisfy debt, two of the Tamarack ski lifts were to have been sold to Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, operator of the Fernie, B.C., ski area.
In Colorado, town officials in Mt. Crested Butte — the resort municipality at the base of the ski area, as distinguished from the old mining town nearby – are pressuring a developer to shape up one of his existing developments. The other end of the conversation is that the developer, Rick Divine, of Colorado Properties Inc., wants an extension of his zoning plan for his project, Solstice.
Cheeseburgers in paradise for bears
EAGLE, Colo. – For the bears at least, it was cheeseburgers in paradise last week in Eagle. But for the sow black bear and her three cubs who were given the burgers outside a fast-food restaurant, there will be a time of reckoning, say state wildlife officials.
“Because of their reckless actions, the sow and cubs now know that people mean food,” said Ron Velarde, of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “This dramatically increases the likelihood these bears will get into trouble in the future and have to be put down.”
Of course, the bears probably had a suspicion that people had food, given that they were loitering around the fast-food restaurant.
Nobody seems to know who gave the bears the burgers.
Towns, counties adopt pot rules
WINTER PARK, Colo. – Local governments in Colorado continue to come to grips with regulations governing the sale and use of marijuana. In violation of federal law, the state permits sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Of course, the word “medicinal” has been interpreted broadly.
Mindful of a recent case in which growers had 100 plants in a condominium, town officials in Winter Park have specified that no more than six marijuana plants can be grown within the town limits for personal use. The same law allows a maximum of 12 plants per building, no matter how many people live there.
In Breckenridge, town officials have decided to ask voters in November whether to impose a 5 percent tax on marijuana. They already collect $25,000 per year in revenues from marijuana sales, and the new measure would draw an estimated $58,000 more.
Town officials said they wanted the additional money to recoup the costs of administering the sales and licenses, although there was talk of allocating some money for a detoxification program.
In California, Oakland and San Francisco levy a special tax on medicinal marijuana.
County governments have also been drawing up regulations. Routt County, where Steamboat Springs is located, has banned grow centers and dispensaries. Eagle County, home to Vail, has drawn up regulations that allow marijuana shops, but not within 200 feet of churches and schools.
County Commissioner Jon Stavney told the Vail Daily he’s not a big fan of marijuana legalization. “But I represent the voters, and they said they’re okay with this,” he said.
Reduction in landfill trips
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – The zero-waste initiative in Steamboat Springs seems to be doing well. Writing in the Steamboat Today, a representative of Yampa Valley Sustainability reports that after three years, the amount of material going to the landfill from special events has been dramatically reduced.
For example, the farmers’ market is getting a 90 percent diversion rate. The event attracts 2,000 people weekly. The Free Summer Concert Series has gone from one or two dumpsters per event to just a 10-gallon trash bag.
And the ski area has gone from several dumpsters of trash per week in 2009 to just two per month in 2011.
Instead of being buried at the landfill, the items are recycled or composted.