Editorial: Minturn’s big decision | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Minturn’s big decision

Alex Miller
Vail Daily Editorial Board

Wednesday night, town councilors in Minturn vote for a second time on whether to annex some 4,300 acres into the town for the private Ginn ski and golf development. Since councilors voted unanimously for the annexation in the first vote last week, it seems inevitable they’ll do so again once some sticking points about tax-revenue retention are resolved.

But be careful, Minturn. Once you sign on the dotted line of annexation and construction begins, there’s not much turning back. And councilors, before you cast your vote tonight, ask yourselves one more time: Is this really the best thing for the town of Minturn? How about the effects on nearby Red Cliff and Eagle County as a whole? Has the developer really done all the homework involved in mitigating the traffic issues 1,700 homes and condos will cause? Are wildlife habitat and migration routes being adequately considered? Is the proposed worker housing enough and, if so, is sticking it all in one place going to create an isolated pocket of service workers on the property?

And, most importantly, is this the right thing to do? Is it worth turning over a large swath of a pretty special (albeit mine-tainted) area of Eagle County to a Florida developer for the benefit of the super-wealthy ” all for a few municipal perks and additional tax revenue? Granted, councilors have been looking at this for several years now, and the town and county owe them gratitude for the hard work of poring through it all.

When one looks at the model of the Battle Mountain area that sits in the Minturn Town Hall, when you actually see the homes and condos dotting the hillside, it’s hard not to sigh and wonder “why?” It’s not like Eagle County doesn’t already have a couple of excellent ski areas, as well as mega-mansions and exclusive golf courses. Although the Ginn Company appears to be doing a good job covering all the bases of concern, what they bring is not anything we really need, nor is it anything we don’t already have except in the elite packaging of the “experience.” Sure, as the landowners they have a right to develop private land, but the citizens and elected representatives of the town of Minturn have a right to ask questions – and demand that those aspects of the development with a potential for impact both positive and negative are brought into the spotlight and scrutinized vigorously.

It’s also worth noting that if Minturn didn’t annex it, it could fall to Red Cliff or Eagle County, in which case Minturn gets the development in their backyard without the say in how it looks. Unless Ginn simply decides to pull out, it appears we’ll have this development one way or another.

We still believe Ginn has downplayed the impacts, that they will be greater than anticipated and that the little town with the interim town manager is overwhelmed by the scope of the project – and thus prone to oversights that could be costly later on. That’s why we’d caution, once again, to hold the developer’s feet to the bargaining fire, get every perk and concession possible and stay vigilant throughout the entire approval and development process. Know that your “yes” vote for annexation tonight, when coupled with an approval for the plans later this year, means a huge

commitment by the town, its staff and elected officials for many years to come. Even the best-intentioned developer is mostly looking out for its own best interests, and Minturn will need to play the role of the vigilant overseer, making sure Ginn holds true to everything agreed to and doesn’t try to spin any of those agreements to the detriment of the town or county.

At a recent town meeting, Minturn Mayor Hawkey Flaherty – himself a long-time resident of the town – gave a short presentation that sounded almost like a funeral song for Minturn. In the face of rising property values and the anticipated sea changes the Ginn development will bring, Hawkeye said the Minturn he knows and loves will be gone forever. The intimation was that the “new-and-improved” Minturn – “Ginnturn,” as many locals are calling it ” won’t be any place real Minturnites would want to live.

He may be right. On the other hand, that kind of defeatist rhetoric is exactly what Minturn doesn’t need right now. Those who believe Minturn is a special place can’t give up now; they need to stick around and shepherd this thing through, difficult though it may be. On the other side of it all may well be a better place with improved resources for the town’s residents. The power to manage that outcome lies in the town’s hands, especially in the coming months when the actual plans are up for approval.

Don’t abdicate that power, Minturn.

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