By Allen Best
Quotas for chains?
BANFF, Alberta – The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that the Banff municipal council refuses to adopt an outright ban on franchise stores and restaurants. Instead, it will look at a quota system aimed specifically at restaurants – but not retail.
The latest row came when a Toronto-based retailer of bulk teas, David’s, laid plans to open a store in Banff. It has 20 stores across Canada and the United States. The proprietor of the existing tea store, Banff Tea Co., is alarmed, fearful that there’s just not enough customers for tea for two, nor two for tea.
Locally owned businesses have had their troubles competing with chains, but even the local tea shop proprietor believes chains have their place.
“I am not against all chains. I think some chains are necessary, like Safeway and The Dollar Store,” said Susanne Gillies Smith.
“If quotas mean finding a balance within the community and we will be able to represent Banff with a unique mountain town, then I’m all for it.”
The Outlook reports that council members want a process to establish the type and level of quotas for all chain restaurants, not just fast food stores. The town currently has a McDonald’s and a Subway. Quotas for chain retail stores may come later.
Councillor Stavros Karlos said the community needs closure on the issue. “I’ve stayed up all night worrying and figuring out how to move it along in a respectful manner,” he said at a council meeting.
Karlos said he could only consider a quota system it if were tied to an economic development strategy for the town.
“What I’m looking for is a thriving, vibrant downtown core,” he said. “That’s what my vision is.”
Councillor Leslie Taylor said she finds the quota system interesting, as it “does not involve the Town meddling in each and every individual transaction, and it provides long-term clarity over what will and will not be allowed now and in the future.”
Only one councilor expressed outright opposition, saying government shouldn’t meddle in the free market.
It’s plenty cold, but snow lags
DRIGGS, Idaho – With La Niña still the prevailing weather pattern this winter, there were expectations that the snow cycle might mimic that of last year, when it snowed early and often.
This year, winter is taking its time. At Montana’s Bridger Bowl on Saturday afternoon, dozens of people were skiing and riding down the mountain. But they had walked up on their own. The ski area didn’t have enough snow yet to justify operation of chairlifts.
In Idaho, it’s cold enough to justify the weather as winter. Some thermometers Monday morning dipped to 22 below. But the snow has lagged. Some locals this week reported literally too much rock ‘n’ roll skiing.
In Aspen the story has been more confused. Through November there was far less snow in the valley than last year, but on the slopes of Snowmass there was actually more snow. The Aspen Times points out that last December was exceptionally warm, with rain falling on the streets of Aspen. Ditto for Vail and all the other resorts in Colorado below 9,000 feet.
The 1 percent looks for discounts
ASPEN, Colo. – Three properties in Pitkin County, which were originally listed at a collective $80.9 million, were sold during November for a combined $51.75 million.
“The toughest thing used to be finding property to show to your buyers because it would turn so fast and furiously that the better properties, inventory and homes would go away in a hurry,” said Steven Shane, the listing broker for one of the home sales. “Now the biggest challenge is finding a reasonable buyer and seller.”
Despite the discounts, these are – as The Aspen Times noted – homes for the 1 percent. One of the homes has 11,300 square feet and includes a 1,600-wine-bottle room and theater.
Whistler vacation draws crowd
WHISTLER, B.C. – A marketing promotion on behalf of Whistler has become the little engine that could, reports Pique Newsmagazine.
The community is offering a deluxe vacation for two: transportation to Vancouver, then a limo ride into Whistler and a one-month’s stay in a fully furnished house, along with ski passes, new skis, and a salary of up to $4,200.
At last count, more than 65,000 people have visited the Whistler Sabbatical Project’s website at http://wouldyoudoit.whistler.com. The Facebook page at “Go Whistler” has over 12,000 “likes,” and is growing. And the number of entries into the competition was closing in on 10,000.
Ketchum lowers bar for developer
KETCHUM, Idaho – Was it a bluff? The Ketchum City Council decided that the hotel developer was being honest in threatening to withdraw plans for the long-desired five-star hotel.
The problem? Ketchum’s original approval for the Warm Springs Ranch Resort in 2009 specified on-site employee housing units for at least 25 percent of the 108 employees expected at the hotel resort.
“To require building new units would be a deal-breaker for the project,” Helios Development representative Mike Barnard told the council. “If you do that, the developer will move on.”
The Blaine County Housing Authority this year found that the Sun Valley-Ketchum community remains 220 affordable-housing units short of what is needed by the community. David Patrie, executive director, expressed concern that new employees at Warm Springs, if built, could potentially soak up all the existing lower-priced rental units in Ketchum.
The council, according to the Idaho Mountain Express, decided that potential for a five-star hotel trumped concerns about the plan submitted by the developer. Under that plan, instead of building on-site affordable housing, Helios must pay $300,000 in recreation fees to the city within two years after the hotel is opened.
The revised plan also calls for less development. The first phase is to include 120 hotel rooms, plus a variety of other real estate and recreational amenities on the 77-acre site northwest of downtown Ketchum. Additional homes are planned for later phases.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts is to manage the resort under the St. Regis label.
Former Ketchum Mayor Jerry Seiffert expressed support for the housing deal. “We have not built a five-star hotel since 1936 when Averell Harriman built a hotel in the Idaho wilderness,” he said. “It’s been 75 years. We have to go with the five-star.”
Current Mayor Randy Hall offered a similar measure of the hotel’s potential Ketchum and Sun Valley into a new era as a destination resort. “This project is a game changer for the community,” he said.