Steve Lynn
Vail CO, Colorado

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December 4, 2007
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Minturn getting a greener ski resort?

MINTURN, COLORADO " During her 20 years in Minturn, Kris Trygg has seen developers in the Vail Valley build with no care as to whether they harm the environment, she said.

"They do what is going to make them the most money," Trygg said.

So Trygg and other Minturn residents say that they welcome the Ginn Development Co.'s plan to build all of its buildings that are more than 20,000 square feet to green building standards.

That amounts to 70 percent of its proposed 1,700-home development on and around Battle Mountain, south of Minturn, said Mariana Boldu, senior landscape architect and planner for Avon-based VAg Architects and Planners, which helped with Ginn's green plan. (The 70 percent does not include employee housing, which Ginn also plans to build to green standards, Boldu said.)

Ginn has not decided exactly how it will go green, but it could mean the use of biodiesel in snowcats, hybrid vehicles and solar energy in homes, said Cliff Thompson, Ginn's director of communications.

Ginn could do more as technologies evolve, he said.

"When you ask about specifics of things, we're not even there yet," he said.

But for some homes and its condominium buildings, Ginn has pledged to meet standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a green building rating system.

"We're committing to meet these requirements that are evolving over time," Boldu said.

The U.S. Green Building Council certifies inspectors, who will evaluate Ginn's development as it's being built to see whether it has met LEED standards.

Besides building environmentally friendly structures, Ginn will take other actions to be LEED certified. That will include using building materials and other products from local businesses, which will reduce air pollution and fuel consumption as Ginn brings its materials to Battle Mountain, Boldu said.

Ginn could qualify for tax breaks from some of its green efforts such as solar energy, unlike its proposed clean-up of the contaminated Eagle Mine (near Minturn), which will not qualify for federal or state income tax credits, Thompson wrote in an e-mail.

Developers looking to sell their properties right away want a maximum return on their investment, so many don't build green, said Matt Scherr, Minturn resident and executive director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability.

Unlike those developers, Ginn will manage its private resort.

"If you build and own, you care about how much it costs to operate," Scherr said.

Building green may be more expensive at first, but after a certain number of years it costs less, he said.

"The reason anybody does these things is really because it's a good business decision and a better way to build," said Scherr, who reviewed Ginn's plan.

Designing a building to use the maximum amount of sunlight during the winter, for example, would make a building more energy efficient (and less costly) because it would rely less on natural resources used to heat a home, he said.

A company such as Ginn could influence other developers to build green, he said.

"It takes it out of the realm of a bunch of hippies trying to save the planet," he said.

Ginn wants to "encourage" some of its potential property buyers to build their homes to LEED standards, according to its plan.

Scherr wants to know how Ginn would do that, he said.

"Encouragement is one thing, but actually building green is another," he said.

Ginn's green building plans would be unique if all those single-family homes were built green, he said.

"There's nothing I've heard of in the country, or at all, like that," he said.

Ginn has not decided how it would encourage property owners to build green, Boldu said.

"There's going to be different options and hopefully we'll lead by example," she said.

Rosemary Schiano, who calls herself a self-educated biologist from Salida, has been studying marmots, bears, coyotes and birds of prey near Ginn's property on Battle Mountain and across the highway in nearby meadows and forests since last spring.

There's nothing green about large homes in an area populated with wildlife, Schiano said. She questions whether potential buyers of Ginn's homes need "second, third, fourth" homes, she said.

"They're trophy homes," she said. "They're investments."

Rob Davis, who has lived in Minturn since 1974, hopes that Ginn will go green.

Davis owns an Avon-based flooring business called Select Surfaces, which sells green products ranging from recycled lumber to recycled porcelain.

Davis acknowledges that he could benefit if he sells products to Ginn, but he thinks everyone in Eagle County will benefit from a project that keeps in mind the environment, he said.

"They could do a lot to help keep the gunk out of the air and water and keep it economically feasible," he said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Dec 4, 2007 05:12PM Published Dec 4, 2007 05:12PM Copyright 2007 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.