E-mails reveal county’s interest in Minturn
EAGLE – Eagle County’s offer earlier this month to help the 1,100 residents of Minturn deal with a large development doesn’t appear to have been as altruistic as initially presented.E-mails that were requested by this newspaper show county commissioner Arn Menconi questioned whether the county could cooperate with Minturn and “control” the town’s approval process with the developer. During a commissioner’s meeting last month Menconi and freshman Commissioner Peter Runyon said they supported Minturn’s decision to begin annexation talks, but that they felt the county should be involved. “Could we put together some ideas how the county can offer to share some of the property tax revenues on the Ginn property with Minturn and Red Cliff in exchange for their agreement not to annex,” Menconi wrote to County Administrator Jack Ingstad and to County Attorney Diane Mauriello, Feb. 28. “That way Minturn and Red Cliff could get some additional revenues right away whether or not the Ginn property gets developed, and Eagle county can control the approval process,” Menconi wrote. By some estimates, property taxes generated by the new development could generate up to $2 million in real estate taxes per year.A big oneThat proposed development on Battle Mountain, by Florida-based developer Bobby Ginn, would include up to 875 homes, a golf course and private ski hill on 5,300 acres that was owned by the New Jersey Zinc mine between Minturn and Red Cliff.
Ginn purchased the land in December for $32.75 million and is requesting Minturn annex his property. Without annexation the county would regulate what is built.Menconi’s e-mail preceded by two days the meeting county commissioners had with the Minturn town council, March 2, during which the two boards clashed over possible cooperation on planning for the $1 billion-plus development.During the meeting Menconi presented traffic statistics generated by the county which showed that Highway 24 through Minturn will be very busy if the development is built. Menconi questioned whether the town had employed a traffic consultant to see what the development would mean to two-lane Highway 24, which serves as Minturn’s main street.The county’s statistics showed up to 15,000 cars per day would use the highway, many of them generated by Ginn’s development. That number was quickly challenged by Minturn Councilman Jerry Bumgarner, who suggested it was far too large.Menconi told the council that the county was “not here to fight over annexation,” but the council and commissioners did not reach a consensus on what should happen next.’Every penny’Runyon, in regards to the developers, told Minturn’s council he wanted to make sure the town got “every penny out of them you can,” adding that the county wanted “a seat at the table because this is a a whole county issue.”During the meeting, Minturn Councilman Tom Sullivan asked Menconi if the county would cooperate or “put up roadblocks,” to Minturn reviewing and approving the project. Menconi did not answer, saying instead, “That’s not a question that can be answered today. I have no idea what issues will present themselves.”That appears to be only partially true.
In an e-mail to county staff, Menconi requested maps of steep, unbuildable areas and critical wildlife areas, traffic numbers that could be generated by a large development, and the water supply available for the proposed development. He brought those materials to the meeting. He also suggested the provisions of the county’s growth policies – known as the “comprehensive plan” – could be used to prevent the developer from “jurisdiction shopping” and playing the town against the county and vice-versa. In Avon developer Magnus Lindholm “shopped” his Village at Avon between the town and county and received, some say, a favorable development agreement with the town. Sales tax generated by Lindholm’s development are applied to some of the development cost of the project.Menconi also sent an e-mail to Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Melinda Kassen in Boulder about Ginn’s development, apparently worried that the town was moving too quickly.”The town is moving fast on this one,” he wrote. “I wonder if Trout Unlimited would get involved or could you recommend an(y) other groups.”No fork in the roadThe county and the town will have to cooperate on the advance planning schedule created by the Colorado Department of Transportation for highway improvements. Without a county recommendation to the department of transportation to rework the highway, Ginn’s project could be delayed for years.Even that may also be a bone of contention because it could conflict with county road priorities.
“I wanted you to know that if we moved Highway 24 up it would bump all our road projects which are 9th in line and not even on the radar for the near future,” wrote Ingstad, Feb. 28, to the commissioners. “We probably should tell Minturn it would be a long time for improvements to Highway 24.”Ginn has encountered all this before. In Port St. Lucie, Fla. three years ago he contributed $11.7 million – two thirds of the cost – for a new intersection that would make it more convenient for homeowners at his nearby luxury developmentGinn told Minturn’s council he has requested annexation because his development needs water, sewers and town services to be successful. He said he would help the town build a new sewer plant.During the meeting Sullivan said he was suspicious of the motives of the commissioners because “two have close ties to Vail Resorts and one ran on an anti-growth platform.” Menconi’s nonprofit Snowboard Outreach Society receives a portion of its funding from Vail Resorts and Tom Stone is a real estate broker with Slifer, Smith & Frampton Real Estate, which is in partnership of Vail Resorts. Commissioner Peter Runyon, who is self-employed, disputed the anti-growth label saying county growth will occur regardless because there are 13,000 units already approved that have not yet been built.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado