Council, commissioners squabble over resort |

Council, commissioners squabble over resort

Cliff Thompson
NWS Battle Mountain3 BH 3-1

MINTURN – Cordiality melted into conflict during a joint meeting between Minturn Town Council members and Eagle County commissioners Wednesday night over planning for the effects of a huge development south of town.The development in question is 5,400 acres on Battle Mountain where Florida developer Bobby Ginn wants to built up to 875 homes, a private ski hill and golf course. Ginn, who attended the meeting, said he has not yet determined exactly what will be built, and has asked that his development be annexed by Minturn.The triggers that turned up the heat were a question by Commissioner Arn Menconi about whether the town had conducted traffic studies on the development and comments by Menconi who wondered aloud in a Vail Trail article what Minturn would do with the extra money it would receive from the development.”What do they need the money for?” Menconi said. “Do they need more police? Do they need more street sweepers? What is Minturn lacking in town benefits that they so desperately need from this size of development?” Menconi said. “I’m kind of appalled Arn. We need a lot,” responded an angry Tom Sullivan, a Minturn town councilman. “What sort of obstacles will the county put up? We’ve got two commissioners with close ties to Vail Resorts and one elected on a no-growth platform.”Commissioner Tom Stone works for Slifer Smith and Frampton, a real estate partnership with Vail Resorts, and Menconi’s Snowboard Outreach Society, a nonprofit he founded, receives $30,000 annually- 15 percent of its annual budget – from Vail Resorts. And Commissioner Peter Runyon, whom Sullivan accused of being “no-growth,” defended his election.”Tom, I don’t think I ran on a no-growth platform,” he said. “There are 13,000 units already planned and not built. We’re gonna grow.”Is Minturn alone? The meeting, which lasted 30 minutes longer than the hour scheduled, also fanned simmering discontent over a water battle between Minturn and a consortium of water users that included Vail Resorts and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District in 1998. Minturn lost two-thirds of its water rights in winter.”That nearly bankrupted us,” Sullivan said. “They showed us no mercy and we’re still working out of it. The only government that offered us help was Gypsum. The message that left us with is Minturn has to go it alone.”That battle cost Minturn – which at the time had a budget of just $800,000 a year – nearly $200,000 in legal fees, said former mayor and former county commissioner Mike Gallagher.Menconi said the commissioners were not “here to fight you over annexation.” But he noted that traffic statistics show the proposed development could generate up to 15,000 cars a day through Minturn.That figure was quickly contested by Councilman Jerry Bumgarner.”Where’d you get the numbers?” he said. “I think it’s irresponsible for you to say 15,000 cars. It’s frightful for you to say that with the press here.”Runyon attempted to defuse the situation, saying the development is so big its impacts, good or bad, will be felt beyond Minturn. “We are totally in favor of you getting every penny out of them that you can,” he said. “We would like a spot on the table. It’s a whole county issue.”Runyon said there are 1,800 people who commute from Lake County through Minturn to jobs in Eagle County. That number is expected to grow to 36,000 by 2025, added.Sewer prospectsSullivan pressed Menconi for an answer on how the town should deal with annexing Ginn’s development. “Are we going to have the support of the county commissioners or a roadblock put in front of us?” he said.Menconi deflected the question.”That’s not a question that can be answered today,” he said. “I have no idea what issues will present themselves.”Ginn said he requested annexation because his development will depend on Minturn for water, sewer, police and road maintenance and other services that would be paid for by fees and taxes generated by the new development.Minturn’s most senior councilman, Bill Burnett, told the audience that the development presented an opportunity to regain the water lost in 1998 by the town, if Ginn built a sewer plant for the town.Ginn quickly agreed. “We understand we will be called upon to build a sewer plant,” he said.Traffic, and the possibility of moving the only street through town – Highway 24 – out of town also prompted debate between the two elected boards. The narrow, cluttered main street places traffic and people in close proximity.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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