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I-70 structure replacement construction enters winter shutdown

The Colorado Department of Transportation has entered a winter hiatus on construction to replace a failing emergency access structure beneath Interstate 70 west of the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnel, according to a news release.

The release said that from the end of November until next April, no lane closures or construction work are expected for the I-70 structure replacement project. The far-right westbound lane west of the tunnel has also been reopened.

A separate repaving project on I-70 will continue between Silverthorne and Frisco during work hours Monday through Thursday, according to the release. CDOT encourages westbound I-70 travelers to plan an additional 30 minutes of travel time when passing through the areas, but eastbound traffic will be unaffected.

Vandalism decrying ‘stolen land’ discovered throughout Glenwood Springs on Thanksgiving

A Glenwood Springs welcome sign near the Grand Avenue bridge vandalized with graffiti.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

A spate of “stolen land”-themed graffiti was discovered throughout several locations in Glenwood Springs on Thursday and Friday, a Glenwood Springs police officer said.

“All of it seems to have been done by the same party, with the same genre of tagging,” Glenwood Springs Police officer Logann Crawford said.

The first report of graffiti was received at 10:38 p.m. Thursday, when a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle was discovered vandalized with spray paint in the 1000 block of Pitkin Avenue.

Throughout the rest of the night and into Friday morning, Crawford said similar acts of vandalism were discovered behind the Garfield County Detention Center, on storefronts in the Glenwood Meadows area and underneath an Interstate 70 overpass.

In addition to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office vehicle, vandalism was discovered on a Glenwood Springs Police Department patrol vehicle, Crawford said.

Though no one is yet identified, surveillance footage captured at the detention center and local police department appear to reveal at least two suspects.

Being it’s the holiday weekend, Crawford said suspects could be identified as early as next week.

Not an isolated incident, reports of “stolen land” graffiti have occurred throughout the nation in recent memory. Several sources say the politically influenced theme was conceived as an internet meme in 2018.

Before the western expansion of the United States in the 1800s, the Roaring Fork Valley was inhabited by the Ute Indian Tribe, native people who were pushed out after the U.S. government opened the area to settlement in 1880, according to Visit Glenwood Springs.

Dazzling, shimmering, explosive — Hotel Colorado’s holiday celebration is back

Hotel Colorado maintenance employee Tim Sparks works on decorating the large pine tree outside the hotel prior to Friday's lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

A local holiday tradition more than 30 years in the running is returning with a bang Friday, Hotel Colorado President Christian Henny said.

“In 2019, for our 30th annual Lighting Ceremony, we used more fireworks than ever before,” Henny said. “Because we weren’t able to do much last year, we’re returning this year with the same amount of fireworks.”

Although a ceremony was held in 2020, Henny said the hotel does not recognize last year’s event as part of the grand affair that has become the annual lighting ceremony. Despite being the 32nd year of celebrations, Henny said the hotel dubbed this year’s ceremony the 31st annual.

Coming back strong, Friday’s ceremony schedule is stacked with events for everyone:

At 3 p.m., a live ice carving begins in the hotel’s courtyard, a free photo booth opens in the Garden Room and a gingerbread competition hosted by the Glenwood Springs Historical Society kicks off in the Roosevelt Banquet Room.

Parents and children can attend a meet-and-greet with Santa Claus in the Devereux Ballroom from 3:15-5:15 p.m., 5:30-6:45 p.m. and 7:45-9 p.m.

Symphony in the Valley is scheduled to perform twice in the Colorado Ballroom from 5-5:45 p.m. and 7:45-8:30 p.m.

At 5 p.m., Boy Scout Troop No. 225 will start selling hot chocolate and cookies on Sixth Street, which will be closed to traffic for the event.

The celebration begins in earnest at 6 p.m. on the main stage — located in front of the hotel on Sixth Street — with a welcome from Henny and the Melville family, the hotel’s owners.

Main stage events are scheduled in the following order:

At 6:10 p.m, the Glenwood Springs High School ROTC will present the colors, followed by the Liberty Classical Academy singing Christmas Songs at 6:15 p.m.

Richard Ganson will perform live music at 6:30 p.m., and the Legacy Dance Company is scheduled to perform Christmas-themed dance routines at 6:40 p.m.

At 6:50 p.m., Christmas songs are slated to continue with a performance by the Denver Dolls, followed by the Dance of the Sacred Fire at 7 p.m.

Santa will join Henny and Marian Melville on the main stage at 7:10 p.m. to begin the countdown for the lighting and fireworks, which is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

“Marian Melville’s favorite part of the celebration is joining us on stage to flip the lighting switch each year,” Henny said.

‘Western White House’

For weeks leading up to the ceremony, about 20 hotel staff are dedicated solely to event preparations, Henny said.

“There will likely be up to 10,000 people out front of the hotel and on the (Glenwood Springs Pedestrian Bridge),” he said. “It’s a really special experience, and it’s a way for the hotel to give back to the community.”

This year, employees strung up more than 500,000 Christmas lights and decorated 60 Christmas trees around the hotel.

Founded 32 years ago by the hotel’s former owners, the celebration originated as a craft show. In 2019, however, Henny said the craft show host decided to discontinue the craft show side.

The hotel, on the other hand, is a much older staple of Glenwood Springs, dating back to the days when the town was officially known as Defiance, Henny said.

Built by silver baron Walter Devereux, the hotel didn’t always welcome the locals with open arms.

“When Devereux constructed the hotel, there was a bridge across the river that led to the town, a rough and tumble mining town typical of the West,” Henny said, adding with a chuckle, “Initially, he didn’t allow the townspeople to cross the bridge, but that didn’t last long.”

President Theodore Roosevelt frequented the hotel in the early 1900s, which earned the establishment’s nickname “The Western White House.” Once, after Roosevelt returned from an unsuccessful bear hunt, hotel staff sewed together a bear out of scrap cloth and towels as a consolation prize. The bear was reportedly named “Teddy” by his daughter, creating the first known “Teddy bear,” Henny said.

During World War II, the hotel was leased to the U.S. Navy for convalescent care, in part because of its access to the area’s world famous hot springs.

Nowadays, the hotel has returned to its former glory as a historic destination and tourism focal point.

Hosting the lighting ceremony is an ode to the visitors who travel to visit Glenwood Springs and the community invested in preserving the city’s glamorous origins, Henny said.

“We at the hotel feel lucky to be at the heart of the holiday celebration,” he said.

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.

Aspen Mountain opens for ski season, gets big boon from surprise storm

A skier makes a tight turn on Deer Park during opening day on Aspen Mountain on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Winter showed up just in time and turned opening day on Aspen Mountain into a celebration 75 years in the making.

While top-to-bottom skiing wasn’t available when the first passengers of the season were loaded into the Silver Queen Gondola just before 9 a.m. Thursday, a surprise storm barely 24 hours earlier that left 7 to 10 inches in spots salvaged the day and got Aspen Skiing Co.’s milestone anniversary season off to a strong start.

“It just goes to show you that you never know,” Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan told The Aspen Times on Thursday, only moments after giving a season-opening pep talk to a long and enthusiastic line of skiers and snowboarders at the base of Aspen Mountain. “It’s a community celebration. It was a whole community awakening or coming out of the quiet years. It’s really amazing to reflect back and think 75 years ago, none of this was a given. We take so much for granted now.”

This winter marks Skico’s 75th season, dating back to the founding and dedication of the original Lift 1 on Jan. 11, 1947. At the time, it was believed to be the longest ski lift in the world and replaced the old “boat tow” lift. Aspen’s evolution into becoming one of the world’s most iconic ski destinations dates back to Lift 1’s arrival.

Skiers wait in a line that wrapped around the block from gondola plaza before opening day on Aspen Mountain on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Thursday, during Aspen Mountain’s annual Thanksgiving Day opening, passengers took the modern gondola to the top where they had about 100 acres available to them. This was a big boost from the original plan, announced only Monday, that was to have 50 acres open at the top while uploading and downloading from the gondola.

But Wednesday morning’s surprise storm and colder temperatures ideal for snowmaking were able to double the acreage by Thursday morning, although skiers still had to download via the gondola.

“It took its sweet time getting here, right? We have been teed up since mid-October and ready to go with snowmaking since Nov. 1,” said J.T. Welden, Aspen Mountain’s manager, of winter’s arrival. “But fits and starts doesn’t get you a lot on the ground when you need 60 million gallons (of water) to really blanket the place, and you are getting 500,000 here and there.”

Skiers wait in a line up the hill from the Ajax Express on opening day during opening day on Aspen Mountain on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Not only has a lack of natural snow made opening terrain difficult, but warm temperatures have made snowmaking nearly impossible. Aspen Mountain is outfitted for top-to-bottom snowmaking, but it still needs help from Mother Nature to make that happen.

With colder temps expected to persist over the coming days, Welden said Aspen Mountain should be open for top-to-bottom skiing by the end of this weekend, if not much sooner. Opening other terrain will be largely dependent on natural snow.

“Being a ski area guy, it’s fun to finally get going,” said Welden, who like so many gave thanks to being able to ski on Thanksgiving. “There are certainly a laundry list of things I’m not thankful for, but we know what those are. This is the best time of year when you are in the ski business, is getting up and running. You do all the work, really from the close of the previous ski season.”

Thursday’s atmosphere resembled a return to normal of sorts for skiers and riders. Last winter was marred by the coronavirus pandemic and the extra safety regulations put in place, from wearing masks in line to spacing out passengers on lifts.

This year, Skico is still asking everyone to wear masks when in the gondola cabins and when inside most of its establishments, but masks currently are not required when standing in line and Welden said they are filling all 147 gondola cabins to capacity as much as possible with no limitations on ridership.

A skier pushes fresh snow as they make turns on the hill during opening day on Aspen Mountain on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

“It’s an opportunity for us to set a new tone, for us to be grateful and express gratitude everywhere we can,” Kaplan said of starting off the 75th anniversary season in this way. “At the end of the day, we are lucky. We are lucky to be here and it’s my honor to be here and be part of it and try to play my part in keeping it moving.”

As Welden put it, last winter didn’t come with much enthusiasm as “74 and a pandemic doesn’t have quite as much luster” as No. 75 will this season. Skico plans to celebrate its diamond anniversary in various ways all winter long, with the Jan. 11 festivities being at the top of that list.

Kaplan, who was wearing Skico’s new-look blue jacket emblazoned with the company’s new logo, mirrored Welden in being thankful for the chance to ski at all considering the past two years.

“It’s time we open this ski season this year right here, right now, to be thankful for what we have, to express gratitude, resilience, optimism and the joy of skiing,” Kaplan said. “I’m most thankful for skiing. To me, it’s the center of my universe and to me that’s the way I connect with my family. It’s the way I connect with myself and my friends and stay connected to the world in a way where I feel like I’m doing something and making a difference.”

Snowmass Ski Area also opened for the season on Thursday, although only seven acres of the Meadows beginner area were accessible. Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands are scheduled to open for the season on Dec. 11.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Summit County passes new short-term rental licensing regulations on 1st reading

The Summit County commissioners meet Sept. 14, placing a moratorium on new short-term rental license applications. On Tuesday, Nov. 23, the commissioners voted on first reading to pass new regulations on short-term rentals.
Joel Wexler/For the Summit Daily News

The Summit Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed new short-term rental regulations on first reading at its Tuesday, Nov. 23, meeting and plans to make adjustments based on concerns expressed by the public.

The commissioners voted to hold a public hearing on the ordinance and code changes Dec. 16, when they’ll vote on second reading.

The new regulations separate unincorporated Summit County into two zones: resort and neighborhood. Short-term rentals in resort zones — which include Copper Mountain, Keystone, Peaks 7 and 8, and Tiger Run — will continue operating the way they currently do, but licenses will now become resort licenses.

Neighborhood zones include the rest of unincorporated county land and will use a tiered system for licensing, which is where most of the new regulations apply.

Neighborhood zones will have three types of licenses depending on the type and use of the home:

Type I: This license is for those who rent out their primary residence. The Type 1 license has unlimited annual nightly rentals of a bedroom in the home when the homeowner is present and a maximum of 60 nights per year to rent the entire unit.

Type II: This license is targeted to second-home owners — though owners can apply for this license for their primary residence, too — and is limited to 135 nights per year.

Type III: For second-home owners who want an exemption on the nightly limit, this license requires a conditional-use permit and has different terms for single-family homes and multifamily complexes.

More about Type III licenses

Single-family license, no nightly limit

• Homes must have a 100-foot setback between residential improvements or a compliant accessory dwelling unit.

• If the lot is in excess of 40,000 square feet, the application goes through a Class 2 conditional-use permitting process, which is reviewed by county planning staff. Folks can request additional occupancy over two people per bedroom plus two if the lot is in excess of 40,000 square feet, but it will be moved to a Class 4 review, which is more stringent.

• If the lot is less than 40,000 square feet, the application goes through a Class 4 conditional-use permitting process, which is reviewed by the county planning commission.

Multifamily license, no nightly limit

• Homes must be part of a homeowners association with a minimum of 100 units. The complex must have either direct shuttles to ski areas or be within 100 feet of a transit stop, and must include significant on-site recreational amenities, including three of the following: pool, hot tub, sauna, tennis/pickleball courts, racketball, gym, game room or other.

• The HOA must verify amenities and provide a letter denoting whether short-term rentals are a harmonious, compatible use. These units are reviewed as Class 4 unless the HOA is able to provide the suggested letter. Occupancy is two per bedroom plus two with no ability to deviate.

Before second reading, commissioners said they would dive deeper into the nuances of the Type III licenses as this was one of the biggest points of confusion for meeting attendees.

During the morning work session Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to move the maximum number of nights for a Type II license for second-home owners from 120 to 135, but a majority of those who spoke during public comment asked for closer to 180 nights. Commissioners also agreed to add Peak 7 into the resort overlay zone, something those who own on Peak 7 were happy to hear.

Senior Planner Jessica Potter has spearheaded the county’s new regulations and explained the details to the commissioners, noting that the county sent out a survey and has done outreach with stakeholders, such as property managers and second-home owners. The county also emailed all of its short-term rental licensees to let them know about the meeting.

Potter explained that compared to the first half of 2020, home sales in the first half of 2021 that resulted in short-term rental license applications increased 21%. She also emphasized that while only 35% of the county’s short-term rentals are in neighborhood areas, this is where 86% of all short-term rental complaints come from.

Commissioner Tamara Pogue explained the process the county has gone through to get public feedback on its plans for regulating short-term rentals, including hosting one virtual and two in-person town halls and seven work sessions as well as responding to an estimated 700 to 800 emails from the public about the issue.

“We have received robust feedback from the community but chose to take more public comment today because we certainly do appreciate that this is a difficult issue,” Pogue said. “… As the (Board of County Commissioners), we have attempted to try to find a balance between the needs of the industry and the needs of our workforce and our community.”

During public comment, Jenny Lieb said she had lived in the home she owns for three years and starting renting it out because she and her family had to move but wanted to keep the property. She said she hires about 10 locals to help manage the home while it’s rented out year-round.

With the new regulations, Lieb said she will have to cut the amount of folks she hires because her home is not in a designated resort zone. She agreed with many of the points folks who spoke before her made related to increasing the number of maximum nights and grandfathering in current license-holders.

“We heard many very good and thoughtful questions today … many of which we agree with and share their concerns as homeowners who depend heavily on renting short-term,” Lieb said.

Many folks in attendance also asked the commissioners to consider grandfathering properties, and the commission asked county staff to look into this possibility since it was such a large concern.

The way the regulations are currently worded, licensees will not be required to be in compliance until September 2026, even though short-term rental licenses must be renewed every year.

A chart lays out the details of Summit County's new short-term rental licensing regulations.
Summit County/Courtesy chart

Meet Chris Sorensen, the new general manager of Keystone Resort

Keystone Resort’s new Vice President and General Manager Chris Sorensen is pictured Tuesday, Nov. 23.
Katie Young/Keystone Resort

Chris Sorensen, who was named Keystone Resort’s new vice president and general manager in May, started from humble beginnings.

Sorensen began his professional career in a server closet in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, programming phone switches for an insurance company. He also picked up a part-time job at Best Buy, where he would work a shift at night just so he could alleviate his itch to interact and communicate with people.

While working these two jobs, Sorensen came across an advertisement in one of Tulsa’s local newspapers that turned his life path a full 180 degrees.

“The advertisement featured a snowboarder jumping off a cliff that said, ‘Do you want to get paid to play?’” Sorensen said. “And I was immediately like, ‘Uh, yes! Sign me up!’”

From there, Sorensen would attend a job fair at a hotel in Tulsa, where he was exposed to ski resorts from across the country. He would eventually be offered a job to come out to Keystone Resort in order to be a ski lift operator.

Sorensen deiced to pack up and move on Thanksgiving Day in 2004 in order to be set up in Summit County in time for his first day Dec. 4.

Sorensen said he initially came to work one season and was willing to change course if things didn’t go as planned. But after two weeks on the job at Keystone, Sorensen said he fell in love with the ski resort lifestyle.

“I can remember calling my parents back in Oklahoma and saying, ‘I’m never coming home, and I am going to find a way of how I can make this a career,’” Sorensen said.

Skiers walk through the gates to board the River Run Gondola on Keystone Resort's opening day, Friday, Oct. 22.
Lindsey Toomer/Summit Daily News

Sorensen had a goal in mind when starting at Keystone in 2004: He one day wanted to be the vice president and general manager of the Resort. Sorensen worked toward this pipe dream by raising his hand to do anything and everything in order to see how the resort was able to run successfully.

After about five years, Sorensen realized that if he wanted to move up higher into the Vail Resorts system, he needed to oversee a part of Keystone’s revenue department in order to prove he could manage operations and revenue systems. Sorensen got this opportunity when he became the tubing and night operations manager for Keystone.

Sorensen loved the new position as it allowed him to be at the top of the mountain, in the sun, looking off Independence Bowl. But Sorensen was still eager to move his way up in the company.

By 2014, he transitioned to Breckenridge Ski Resort as the senior manager of EpicMix Photo, guest service and scanning. Sorensen said his stint at Breckenridge was short-lived as he nailed down his first Vail Resorts general manager position at Mt. Brighton outside of Detroit the next year.

Sorensen made the move with his wife, who he had met at Keystone, along with his two new stepchildren.

After three years in Michigan, Sorensen and his family made another move to Hastings, Minnesota, in order for him to lead Afton Alps Ski Resort. He would remain in this position for only a season before he was promoted once again, this time to vice president of Vail Resorts’ Midwest region, which includes 10 resorts.

Then in June of this year, Sorensen started his new leadership role at Keystone.

“Vail Resorts is thrilled to welcome Chris Sorensen as the new vice president and general manager of Keystone Resort,” Keystone Resort spokesperson Loryn Roberson said at the time. “… Chris has a long history with Vail Resorts. He joined the company in 2004 as a lift operator at Keystone and quickly articulated his dream of one day becoming the GM.”

Sorensen said his latest title takes things “full circle” to the position he dreamed about 17 seasons ago.

“I am so proud of how this resort has grown since I was gone,” Sorensen said. “And to be be back in this role leading this resort where I started my career means the world to me.”

Sorensen said he returned to Summit County with essential, newfound experience on how to interact with different cultures and build teams from the ground up. This season, Sorensen said a large amount of his energy and focus will be spent on family.

“Keystone’s brand is family, and it will continue to be family,” Sorensen said. “We will continue to drive activations around the family skier. The overall vision is to continue to make this the No. 1 family resort in the world, add lift service terrain to increase uphill capacity and improve the employee experience.”

Sorensen noted that Keystone is planning the opening of a big expansion next season that will allow more access for families to explore the resort. The Bergman Bowl expansion will provide 500-plus new lift-served acres with 15 trails in order to give visitors easier access to one of Sorensen’s favorite places on the mountain to explore.

Sorensen said Keystone is also in the process of expanding and developing its base area over the next three to four years.

Although Sorensen spends the majority of his time in meetings, he said he likes to spend at least fives days a week out on the hill seeing the finished product of employees’ hard work and dedication.

Sorensen said he expects a strong ski season with visitors coming to get outside and explore the mountain.

“Our expectations are that there is going to be a demand,” Sorensen said. “People are going to want to be here, they are going to want to get outside, and we are excited to be able to offer them a product to do that. Hopefully, people have fun and laugh with their friends, family or themselves if they are powder hounds.”

It’s on: Copper Mountain is the final Summit ski area to open for the season

American Eagle lift, with Main-Vein trail below, is pictured on opening day Monday, Nov. 22, at Copper Mountain Resort.
Curtis DeVore/Copper Mountain Resort

It’s official: Summit County’s mountains are open for ski season. Copper Mountain Resort hosted the final Opening Day in the county on Monday.

Colin Thomas stood at the Alpine Lot waiting for a shuttle bright and early on opening day. Thomas had driven up from Denver — where it has yet to snow — for his second Opening Day of the season after Winter Park’s opening last week.

“I haven’t been able to ride the last two years because I got shoulder surgery done, so I was finally able to come back out and ride,” Thomas said.

The event was met with fanfare as eager skiers and snowboarders lined up for the American Eagle lift. Last year, the resort opened on a Monday due to pandemic concerns about crowds. This year, the resort kept its Monday opening, making for a mellow start to the season.

Standing in line for American Eagle with his dad, Evan Cooper said he moved to Colorado a year ago and — despite having to do some work from his car in the parking lot — he wanted to come to Opening Day with his father, who often attends the festivities. The lack of COVID-19 restrictions like reservations are something Cooper is stoked about this season.

Catching up with Fort Collins residents Chloe Boehm and Lilly Namie after a few runs, the two said Copper is their favorite mountain to ski because of the terrain and lack of crowds.

“It’s nice to have some fresh corduroy to ski down,” Boehm said about the opening day conditions.

“I got two turns in of a little bit of fresh snow, and it was beautiful,” Namie added. “It was good, kind of what you would expect for man-made, but I think as it gets warm, it’s going to soften up.”

While Copper is the last ski area to open to the public, it originally opened Oct. 22 specifically for athletes.

The resort started calling itself The Athlete’s Mountain this season as a nod to the competitions hosted at the mountain. While the mountain was open to certain athletes prior to its official Opening Day, it’s a special feeling to be fully open, spokesperson Taylor Prather said.

“It’s really exciting,” Prather said. “We’ve had ski racers here training for the last month, but it’s really something different, something special when we get to welcome the public.”

Prather said the resort’s snowmaking team has been working “around the clock” to get the mountain ready for Opening Day — and while local ski areas have struggled with warm and dry weather lately, Prather said, Copper is happy with the terrain it was able to open with, noting the fresh dusting of snow received over the weekend. Copper opened with 70 acres of beginner and intermediate terrain.

Prather added that the resort is hard at work getting the 22-foot superpipe up and running, which will be the focal point for the Olympic qualifying events the resort is hosting this season.

As for what the resort is most excited about, Prather said it’s the opportunity to start getting back to normal.

“Getting people back on the mountain skiing and snowboarding, having fun, less mask enforcement, less parking restrictions — just getting back to what we all love doing, which is skiing and riding,” Prather said.

Plenty of Opening Day visitors said they were relieved to ditch most COVID-19 restrictions on the mountain this season, but others said they were looking forward to the snow and just getting back out on the mountain.

Nik Mennemeier said he’s looking forward to learning new tricks on his skis this season, specifically his backward carving skills.

Glenwood Springs council deadlocks on Glenwood Meadows proposal, killing development

A proposal to build 300 residential units in Glenwood Meadows died last week after a 3-3 tie vote by Glenwood Springs City Council.

Located on land annexed by the city about 20 years ago, the development proposal included 14 buildings on about 30 acres of land with about 3 acres of parkland for tenants’ use as well as public access to the Wulfsohn Trail system.

Trent Hyatt, the city’s senior planner, told council members at Thursday’s meeting the applicants, BLD Group and Glenwood Meadows LLC, volunteered 15 of the 300 units to be deed-restricted for up to five years and be rented at a rate based on 100% of the area median income during that time frame. Because the permitting process for the development began before the council implemented an affordable housing requirement for new developments early this year, Hyatt said the developers were not required to deed restrict any units.

During meetings with the planning and zoning commission, the developers volunteered to rent 10 units at 100% AMI. While the commission approved the proposal 6-0, commissioners asked BLD Group to consider increasing the amount of deed-restricted units. The developer responded by volunteering five more units.

Representing the applicants, attorney Chad Lee said the developers meticulously designed the units to meet the city’s codes without the need for variances.

“We’re proud to present this project, which has been 20 years in the making,” Lee said.

In addition to the residential units, the design proposal included an approximately 21,000 square-foot clubhouse, which could feature about 5,000 square feet for a day care to serve up to 70 children, he said.

About 52% of the residential units were designed as two- and three-bedroom apartments, with the remaining units consisting of one-bedroom and studio apartments. Lee said those units might be rented at rates of about $1,500 a month for a studio on the low end, and up to $2,800 for a three-bedroom apartment.

Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Willman asked if the applicants anticipated police officers, firefighters and teachers — people Lee previously identified as potential benefactors of the development — would be able to afford those rents.

“Yes, I think they could,” Lee said. “These are market-rate apartments, and they will be rented at market rates. Rents are only going to go up.”

Lee said the development did not receive any feedback from the public — good or bad — prior to the meeting, and during the public comment portion of the council’s meeting, no one spoke for or against the proposal.

One resident did speak up to request the council require future developers enroll in mandatory composting and recycling programs.

Council member Tony Hershey, who opposed the 480 Donegan development, said he supported BLD Group’s proposal.

“This is different, this is classic infill,” Hershey said. “I am not surprised there is not a public outrage here.”

The 480 Donegan development proposal began as several apartment complexes similar to the design layout proposed for Glenwood Meadows, but Donegan developers R2 Partners later responded to public feedback by including a mix of townhomes and increasing the number of two- and three-bedroom apartments. The proposed 480 Donegan development plans include 300 residential units located on about 16 acres.

Willman, who initially opposed the 480 Donegan development, but later supported it following changes made by the developer, said he was disappointed in the Glenwood Meadows proposal’s lack of housing diversity.

“This project is 13 homogenous boxes,” Willman said. “I don’t think that’s what we need in this community.”

Willman said the residents would be better served by the development of various housing types, including townhomes, single-family units and apartments. He also expressed concerns about the lack of affordable options within the proposed development.

Sharing Willman’s concerns about the lack of housing diversity, Council Member Paula Stepp, who opposed the 480 Donegan development, said she was also worried about the traffic impacts created by a high density development with limited egress options.

Lee responded to Stepp’s comments by pointing out the area is zoned for high-density residences, and the development’s traffic layout complied with city code.

The potential for a day care caught the attention of Council Member Ingrid Wussow, who opposed the 480 Donegan project.

“It is to my own chagrin that I am probably supporting this,” Wussow said. “Because my preference would be that you meet the affordable housing requirements of today.”

Council Member Shelley Kaup, who supported the 480 Donegan development, said she would support the development because of the mounting evidence a lack of housing is at the root of the area’s labor force challenges.

“I am intrigued that there have been no public comments,” Kaup said. “I would, however, like to see the 15 units deed restricted for longer than five years.”

Mayor Jonathan Godes, who supported the 480 Donegan development, said the tiered landscaping was an impressive approach to developing the sloped terrain and agreed with Wussow about the daycare being an attractive addition, but said the lack of housing diversity was an issue for him.

“I’m very torn on this,” he said.

Instead of what was proposed, Godes said he would rather see a phased development proposal for all 415 residential units permitted by city code to be built within the area, which included 300 apartments and 115 townhomes or single-family units.

Council Member Steve Davis was absent.

BLD Group’s development proposal was killed by a tie vote, with Godes, Willman and Stepp voting against the proposal and Hershey, Wussow and Kaup voting for.

Hockey outbreak cases from other counties push total higher

The number of COVID-19 cases from an outbreak that started with adult and kids hockey games in Aspen two weekends ago rose by more than 50% on Thursday after new cases were reported from a total of six Colorado counties, an official said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notified local public health officials Thursday that 27 more cases related to hockey games played in Aspen and Glenwood Springs the weekend of Nov. 5-7 had been detected outside the Roaring Fork Valley, Pitkin County epidemiologist Josh Vance said Thursday. That included 22 children and five adults.

Those additions Thursday brought the total number of cases linked to the hockey outbreak to 71, including 36 adults, 27 children and eight others who tested positive after being exposed by those at the hockey games, he said.

“That is a lot of cases,” Vance said. “It was already our largest outbreak (since the pandemic began) before we added 20 to 30 more cases. It’s by far now our largest outbreak.”

The counties with COVID-19 cases tied to the hockey outbreak are Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Routt, Summit and San Miguel, he said. None of the new cases have resulted in hospitalization.

On Wednesday, the total cases linked to the outbreak included 31 adults from 10 different hockey teams and five children from two teams, as well as the eight people exposed to the initial 36 tested positive for COVID-19, he said.

The COVID-19 exposures are all linked to games involving Aspen’s B-league and C-league city hockey adult league teams that played at the Aspen Ice Garden, the ice rink at the Aspen Recreation Center and the Glenwood Springs Ice Rink between Nov. 5-7. A junior hockey tournament the same weekend sickened players who are younger than 18.

The Aspen-area rinks — which are owned by the city of Aspen — began strictly enforcing mask use for hockey players on and off the ice this week, a city spokeswoman said.

The additional cases Thursday caused Pitkin County’s COVID-19 numbers to rise even further, according to online dashboards.

Public Health reported 72 new cases of the virus in the county in the seven-day period ending Wednesday, including 63 residents and nine out of county cases. The incidence rate of the virus per 100,000 people — which was 158 on Nov. 9 — hit 355 on Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control considers communities with an incidence rate higher than 50 per 100,000 people as having “substantial” transmission, while anything above 100 is considered a “high” level of transmission.

“We’re really looking at Thanksgiving next week,” Vance said. “There’s definitely a lot more COVID in the community. Whatever people can do to practice precautions for the holiday (is important). Be as safe as possible when gathering with people.

“We’re definitely pretty concerned heading into December.”

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Silt woman and right-wing activist questions use of force in FBI raid

MyPillow CEO MIke Lindell joins Sherronna Bishop during a Garfield Re-2 District school board meeting in October.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

A Silt woman whose home was searched as part of an investigation into a possible election security breach released a statement Thursday.

On Tuesday morning, Mesa County investigators, the state attorney’s general office and local authorities joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in executing search warrants at four locations in Garfield and Mesa counties.

This included the homes of Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters as well as one of her associates, Silt resident Sherronna Bishop. Bishop served as Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign manager in the 2020 primary election.

Peters has been the subject of an ongoing investigation after voting equipment passwords were posted online by a QAnon conspiracy theorist, according to reporting by the Denver Post.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported the FBI also raided the homes of Mesa County Elections Manager Sandra Brown and Fruita resident Gerald Wood. Wood is accused of making copies of computer hard drives from Peters’ office.

Bishop confirmed Thursday that law enforcement searched her home earlier this week.

“While homeschooling my youngest children, the FBI along with Mesa County Investigator Matthew Struwe decided it was necessary to bust open my front door with a battering ram and put me in handcuffs while they trampled through my home terrifying my family,” she said. “My daughter was pulled around by her hoodie by one of the FBI agents.”

Bishop said she repeatedly asked authorities during this time what prompted the search but received no explanation. She also said her cell phone was immediately confiscated.

“It is still unclear to me why the FBI, (Colorado Secretary of State) Jena Griswold and the Mesa County DA, Dan Rubenstein, believed such brute force was necessary with children in the home and myself being a law-abiding citizen with no criminal activity,” she said. “I have been transparent to any organization that wanted to speak with me, even initiating a briefing in September with Mesa County Officials and the DA’s office to present election information.”

The Post Independent requested to view damage done to her residence during the search but received no response.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser released a statement Thursday regarding the treatment of everyone involved in the raids.

“We dispute how some have characterized the law enforcement action carried out earlier this week in Mesa and Garfield Counties,” he said. “This judicially authorized search was executed in a professional and lawful manner.”

Mesa County Public Affairs Manager Stephanie Reecy said Thursday Mesa County has since August been investigating the possible election security breach involving the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

“No arrests were made, and the operations are related to ongoing investigations,” she said in an email. “Per order of a federal court, all documents related to these operations are sealed.”

The DA’s Office is committed to completing a thorough and accurate investigation, Reecy added.

“As such, documents will remain sealed until the investigation is complete, and the DA’s office cannot comment further on a pending investigation as it could compromise the investigation’s integrity, lead to inaccurate speculation on what it relates to, or otherwise prejudice any person’s rights to a fair trial should charges be filed,” she stated in the email. “Releasing information prematurely would compromise that.”

On the day the search warrant was executed at her home, the Republican appeared, talking about the raid on MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s podcast.

Bishop, founder of the right-wing website America’s Mom, has appeared regularly at Garfield County Re-2 School Board meetings speaking out against mask mandates and trying to spread false medical information related to COVID-19.

During one board meeting in October, Lindell personally made an impromptu cameo, joining Bishop as she went after the board for implementing a mask mandate throughout all schools and buildings within the district.

The FBI did not respond to the Post Independent on questions regarding Tuesday’s searches.