Battle Mountain changes get mixed reviews | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain changes get mixed reviews

Sarah Mausolf
smausolf@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

Special to the DailyCrave Real Estate depicts the first phase of a proposed development along Highway 24 south of Minturn. Designs show a resevoir at Bolts Lake and mixed residential housing on the land, which is bisected by Tigiwon Road. The pink-and-red dotted line shows a ski lift that leads to the community atop Battle Mountain.

MINTURN, Colorado – Bob Martinez never liked the idea of a private ski resort on Battle Mountain.

“I’m totally against it,” he said, standing in the yard of his Minturn home. “Those are good hunting grounds.”

The last thing Martinez, 59, wants to see is development where he shoots elk, but he thinks a scaled-down proposal for Battle Mountain sounds better than Ginn Co.’s original plan.

Representatives from Crave Real Estate, the Canada-based company that has taken over the project, recently announced they removed the golf course, hotel and two-thirds of the commercial space from designs for Battle Mountain. Instead they envision Minturn providing most of the restaurants and businesses for the resort community.

Several Minturn residents say they’re relieved to see plans for Battle Mountain shrink, but they’re worried about whether Crave will cut back on the $180 million worth of public benefits Ginn promised the town.

“That’s the question we’re all struggling with,” Minturn councilwoman Shelley Bellm said. “They will be on the hook to do public improvements. What scale they will be is yet to be determined.”

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Bellm said a committee of town officials will be meeting with developers starting next week to talk about the public benefits.

Ginn had envisioned a $1 billion-plus Beaver Creek-style resort with up to 1,700 luxury homes on 5,400 acres south of Minturn. Crave has toned down those plans in response to the recession and concerns that the plan would use too much water. It’s too soon to say how many homes will be part of the revised plan, although Dave Kleinkopf, a principal at Crave Real Estate, recently said plans could include up to 1,600 units. Minturn has an agreement with developers to annex 4,300 acres into the town for the project.

Removing the 195-foot-tall hotel from the plan was popular with several Minturn residents who heard about the changes.

“Boy, I’m glad that’s gone,” Minturn resident Jeff Boock said as his two daughters played on a swing set at Little Beach Park. “I have much less of a problem with homes on the hill than the biggest hotel – in the county? It was something outrageous like that, the biggest or the tallest in the county.”

Boock, 38, has mixed feelings about the golf course leaving the plan, though.

“I don’t play golf anymore because my back is hurt,” he said. “That seems like it would have been a good amenity, but if it makes it (the development) more possible and plausible, then eliminating it is worthwhile.”

As for moving the project’s commercial core to Minturn, that change appeals to Boock.

“That would certainly sell that plan to Minturn,” he said. “Look at the commercial core. It’s all for rent.”

Taking a break from watering the garden outside her Minturn home, Tamara Jones, 35, agreed the changes are an improvement.

“I think it’s great that they’re scaling back, mainly because it’s not going to take as many natural resources to run that area,” she said.

The plan would use about half as much water as previously proposed, Crave representatives have said. And Instead of 13 fixed ski lifts, plans call for four or five. Ginn’s design had included up to 300 housing units and some commercial development in Gilman, the ghost town off Highway 24 but, at this point, Crave is not envisioning development in Gilman, company spokesman Cliff Thompson said.

Minturn resident Graham Predeger, 29, said he’s all for scaling back the proposal because he was never sold on it from the beginning.

“This valley is already saturated with golf courses and ski resorts,” he said.

He hopes Crave will come through with the promises developers originally made to Minturn residents. Predeger said he had always been skeptical of Ginn’s promises, especially once the economy tanked.

“If they come through with even half of the things they promised, I would be happy,” he said.

Among the improvements Ginn had agreed to fund were a recreation center, sidewalks on Main Street, a bike path, ski access at the resort for Minturn residents, a new wastewater treatment plant and a new water treatment plant, Bellm said.

But Thompson said the improvements had been contingent on final project approval – something he says Ginn’s project never could have achieved in its previous form. Getting federal permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies are a necessary part of the approval process, yet the chances of getting the plan passed were low if the plans did not change, Thompson said.

“Because the town’s public improvements are contingent upon approval of the final plan, we had to go back to the drawing board,” he said.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.