Big land swap idea floated in Minturn
MINTURN — Battle Mountain Development announced it needs the town’s help in exploring a possible land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service: Battle Mountain for Meadow Mountain.
The company plans to submit an exchange proposal to the Forest Service within the next month or two, Tim McGuire with Battle Mountain Development told the Minturn Town Council Wednesday evening.
The Forest Service does not have to review the proposal, but McGuire said he hopes the Minturn council and community will ask the Forest Service to at least consider reviewing the idea, which he says would result in less development on Meadow Mountain than what is planned for Battle Mountain.
“There is no question that we will develop Battle Mountain if an exchange is not feasible,” McGuire was quoted saying in a release issued Wednesday by Battle Mountain Development. “Development at Meadow Mountain could result in a reduction of the traffic impacts to Minturn, maintain development closer to the I-70 corridor and preserve valuable, undisturbed interconnected elk and lynx habitat on Battle Mountain.”
However, “This is at the idea stage and very preliminary,” McGuire said. “The proposal will require a great deal of study to see if it is achievable.”
HOMES ON MEADOW OR BATTLE?
Battle Mountain is located east of U.S. Highway 24 between Interstate 70 and Red Cliff, and is privately owned by Philadelphia-based private equity firm Lubert Adler, which has owned the property since 2004. The property was annexed into the town of Minturn in 2008, and while the economic situation at the time put a screeching halt to any development on the property, Lubert Adler, with the help of Crave Real Estate Ventures, has come a long way. They now have the necessary water to start development, and their issues with the Environmental Protection Agency have been settled. What they want to know now is — is Meadow Mountain a possibility, or should they continue down the path of developing Battle Mountain?
The Forest Service asks two questions when considering a land swap — is it in the public good? and are the parcels of the same value? With the value Battle Mountain holds as being annexed into the town of Minturn and having development rights associated with it, Battle Mountain Development feels the parcels are of a similar value. The first question, though, is a little more complicated.
Battle Mountain Development’s idea would be to develop 1,274 acres of the 4,700 acre parcel at Meadow Mountain. Meadow Mountain would not be developed as densely as Battle Mountain, which is entitled for 1,700 units, and Meadow Mountain fully developed would leave 3,402 acres as open space, preserving the existing trails and trailheads there. On opposite sides of the open-space token, concerns regarding wildlife mitigation and snowmobile recreation were both brought up by the public and members of the Town Council on Wednesday.
McGuire made it clear that the idea was just that, an idea, and it has no chance of becoming a reality without full cooperation from the town of Minturn. That means approval of a development plan and eventual annexation.
Council member Shelley Bellm said she found it disconcerting that she heard rumors of the idea before hearing it herself for the first time at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Have other municipalities expressed an interest in annexing this?” she asked.
“We haven’t even gone there,” McGuire said.
Council member Earle Bidez said the first thought that likely popped into everyone’s heads when first seeing the map that McGuire presented was “Gee, that western most part of the parcel borders right on Beaver Creek.”
McGuire said ultimately the decision to connect to the ski resort would be up to Beaver Creek, but Vail Resorts is no longer in the development business and it would be Battle Mountain Development’s project, with no chances whatsoever of them flipping it to Vail Resorts.
“Vail Resorts has told us they’re not interested in connecting anything to Beaver Creek at this time, and basically said, ‘We don’t have any opinion of the project at this time,’” McGuire said. “But even if there was no ski lift on this project, we feel it’s a good project.”
McGuire ended his presentation by saying he wanted to stress three points about the project: Meadow Mountain would remain open and accessible; the only way it will work is if Minturn is a partner in the project; and it’s only the beginning of an idea.
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