Commission recommends land swap support | VailDaily.com

Commission recommends land swap support

MINTURN — Town Hall was packed Wednesday for the town's Planning & Zoning Commission meeting with Crave Community Co., the developers looking for a letter from the town to move forward with a Battle Mountain-Meadow Mountain land swap with the U.S. Forest Service.

After about an hour and a half of public input, the commission, as a recommendation body to the Town Council, voted 4-1 to recommend that the council send a letter to the U.S. Forest Service supporting the start of the land exchange process, despite some outcry from the community.

Tim McGuire, Colorado director of Crave Community Co., presented the conceptual idea of possible development in Minturn pending the two-year land swap process to the Planning & Zoning Commission as well as the 40-50 people in the council chambers.

The Town Council will continue discussions and deliberations about the issue moving forward, with town input sought throughout the process. Planning & Zoning Commission member Brad Bickerton said it was sad people came to the meeting with anger instead of inquiry, as some residents and community members voiced their concerns with the project.

“(Crave Community Co.) is here to listen to concerns.”Earle BidezMinturn Town Council member

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But, Bickerton said, "Colorado was founded on exploring," and that's something the town needs to continue to look into moving forward, the commission concluded.

Crave's project, which is more of an idea at the moment, looks to add development in the town of Minturn, with about 30 percent of the project identified as affordable housing ($200,000-$500,000) while maintaining Meadow Mountain as open space.

QUESTIONS, CONCERNS

The town's questions and concerns on Wednesday brought up much of the town's rich history and unique charm, which is why many residents moved to Minturn in the first place.

Main concerns revolved around added traffic and the scope of development, which McGuire said would require more studies and discussions.

In response to added traffic that 1,000 homes would bring to town, McGuire said a five- or six-mile loop road is in the plan and it could serve as an opportunity to add public transportation.

Planning & Zoning Commission member Justin Carter, in his first meeting on the board, asked about transparency during the Forest Service process, which is an "extremely public process," said Tom Glass, of Western Land Group, who spoke with McGuire on behalf of Crave.

McGuire said there will be written guarantees in the project about open space and all four neighborhoods will still need to be approved by the Town Council and Planning & Zoning Commission after the land swap process.

HOUSING ISSUE

McGuire said Crave Community Co. is looking to address the regional issue of affordable housing for low-income employees who struggle to find places to live.

The development company representatives said they are taking a proactive approach to possibly solving a serious need in both Minturn and the county. However, not all residents and community members feel the need to add affordable housing to Minturn.

"It's not on Minturn to solve the county's housing issue," said Lynn Feiger, of Minturn.

"That's Vail Resorts' problem, not Minturn's obligation," Jeff Miller said.

Still, some people in the audience Wednesday didn't want to rule a development project out just yet, as business owners see the housing struggles many of their employees face in the valley.

Ernesto Atencio said, "This town is awesome." He's not 100 percent opposed to the idea, but he said "scale it down some."

Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Lynn Teach remembers the days of movie theaters and pharmacies in Minturn. "Just think about it," she pleaded with the community.

In the end, if there is no support from the town of Minturn for the project, then Crave Community Co. is not going to submit a proposal to the Forest Service for a land swap, McGuire said.

Minturn Town Council member Earle Bidez was in attendance Wednesday. He addressed those in attendance and said he understands the anger that immediately arises when developers come to town. However, he said the town does need change to avoid becoming a ghost town.

"They are here to listen to concerns," Bidez said of Crave Community Co.

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com.

More information:

Crave Community Co. is continuing the conversation by sending fliers to those in town as well as holding open houses and informational meetings. Crave’s website will continue to be updated at CraveCommunity.com. The Minturn Town Council meets on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall at 302 Pine St.