Battle Mountain clears key EPA hurdle as potential land sale looms | VailDaily.com

Battle Mountain clears key EPA hurdle as potential land sale looms

David O. Williams
Special to the Daily

Battle Mountain Resort in the next few months will submit a new housing development plan to the town of Minturn for the just more than 500 acres it owns close to town, having scrapped plans for a 13-story hotel, golf and commercial space.

MINTURN — Just shy of the 10-year anniversary of Minturn voters overwhelmingly approving Battle Mountain Resort, a massively scaled-back version of the project cleared a key federal hurdle this week while developers also closed in on a deal to sell off a huge chunk of their land.

Tim McGuire, vice president of development for Battle Mountain Resort, confirmed on Wednesday, May 9, that the company has a reached agreement for an Administrative Order on Consent from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will allow remediation work to begin near Maloit Park in the next several months.

McGuire also confirmed the looming sale of a majority of the company's land between Minturn and Red Cliff.

"We've had an offer, and we're not under contract yet, but we're hopeful we will be very soon," McGuire said of Battle Mountain's East Parcel, which is composed of about 4,600 acres — 3,600 of those annexed into Minturn in 2008. The other 1,000 acres are in Eagle County, and the total parcel is the so-called mountaintop area that's all east of U.S. Highway 24.

Rezone 3,600 acres

Battle Mountain has been working with Minturn officials to rezone the 3,600 acres in town to allow for less dense development than was approved 10 years ago — basically 35-acre lots with no planned unit development requirements. Use by right would allow one home with its own well and septic on each of those 35-acre or larger parcels.

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Battle Mountain is retaining the Rex Flats, Maloit Park and Bolts Lake areas just south of town. That area, which still requires some remediation of old mining waste by covering it with soil, was originally approved for 700 units of "market-rate" housing on just more than 500 acres, plus a 13-story hotel, golf and commercial space. But plans for all but the homes have been scrapped, McGuire said.

On May 20, 2008, the entire 5,300-acre project was overwhelmingly (87 to 13 percent) approved by Minturn voters for a 10-chairlift, two-gondola private ski area, two 18-hole private golf courses and 1,700 homes on private land cobbled together from old mining claims. The project also included the mining ghost town of Gilman.

Unless the new buyer wants it, McGuire said Battle Mountain would likely retain Gilman, as well, although it is not being considered for any development at this point. Gilman was always the last phase of the previous plans because so much mining-waste remediation work is required there. The Eagle Mine area has been an EPA Superfund site since 1986.

The global recession of 2009 shut down most of Battle Mountain's plans and forced former owner Bobby Ginn, of Florida, into bankruptcy. Current owner Lubert-Adler listed its 4,600-acre chunk of land east of U.S. Highway 24 for just less than $20 million last summer. McGuire said he could not comment further on the current offer, who the buyer is or what their plans are.

Remediation work

Meanwhile, on its 500 acres closer to town, the EPA order will allow Battle Mountain in the next few months to start some remediation work on its land along the Maloit Park Road from Highway 24 to the fitness center near the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy.

"We're really excited about (the EPA order) and glad to be where we're at and get this phase of the investigatory work and the planning for what needs to be done for remediation behind us so we can move forward now," McGuire said, praising the efficiency of current EPA staff.

"We have definitely kind of accelerated the process in the last year, especially with getting the record of decision for Operable Unit 3 (water treatment facility) signed," said EPA Eagle Mine Superfund project manager Jamie Miller, who started working on the project in 2015. "That was a heavy lift and a large amount of work, and so getting that done I think really was kind of the kickoff for us to be able to really implement the remedy."

McGuire said that covering over a few pockets of remaining mining waste in the Maloit Park area won't be that difficult, given the area was already remediated once in the 1990s by previous mine owner Viacom. He said it's just a matter of getting the area up to residential standards.

As that work proceeds, McGuire said the company would continue to work with Minturn officials on renegotiating annexation terms, since the project has changed so dramatically since initial approval in 2008. Battle Mountain in the next few months will submit a new development plan.

"We're really looking at a market-rate community, so our goal is to come in at a price point in the $500,000 range or even less for some of the smaller units," McGuire said, describing a mix of tiny homes, townhomes and single-family units. "The $500,000 to $1.2 million range is really what we think this valley needs, and it could happen there and really be successful."

The Ginn-owned project was on the hook to build a new water-treatment facility for the town in 2008 — among many other things — but that was when it was a billion-dollar-plus project.

"It's now not such a simple calculus, and we really have to understand, no matter if it's Battle Mountain or developing our core, or Dowd Junction, Maloit Park or anything else that comes along, we have to know how to make our water future work," Minturn Mayor Matt Scherr said.