Ginn could pump $162 million into Minturn | VailDaily.com
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Ginn could pump $162 million into Minturn

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

Developers weigh in on Minturn’s financial package, their own

MINTURN ” A developer of a private ski resort will fund more than $162 million in benefits for the town of Minturn, according to the town.

Ginn will fund an $8.5 million recreation center, community center and library; $250,000 for a parking lot for Little Beach Park; $22 million to buy almost 40 acres of U.S. Forest land around the town; $2 million for public parking in downtown Minturn; and $350,000 for scholarships for residents, among other benefits.

Ginn also will fund and build a $9 million paved bike trail that will go from Dowd Junction to Red Cliff, but the town must build the section that goes from Cemetery Road to the Turntable Restaurant and Hotel.

Ginn has given more than $11 million to Minturn already. If residents approve annexation of the Ginn project Tuesday in a referendum, planning for the bike path, recreation center and park parking lot theoretically could begin the day after. Ginn will give the rest of the money sometime after ” and if ” town councilors vote to approve Ginn’s final development plan. That vote is expected to come later this year if residents vote yes Tuesday.

Ginn wants to build 1,700 homes and condominiums, ski slopes and a golf course on and around Battle Mountain between Minturn and Red Cliff.

Benefits for town more typical

Before they voted in February to include 4,300 acres of Ginn’s of property into the town, Minturn town councilors negotiated fiercely for Ginn funds.

Town councilors have become more savvy when it comes to drawing benefits from developers, said Craig Cohn, director of marketing and sales for the Solaris development in Vail.

“It has become a regular part of development and approvals to give back public benefits to the communities that allow you to build,” said Cohn, who spearheaded a campaign to get voters to approve Solaris in a 2007 referendum.

Vail will get around $50 million in benefits from Solaris, Cohn said.

That includes $1.2 million for a fountain and sculptures in Solaris’ public plaza as a part of a deal with the town of Vail.

Residents also may use Solaris’ three-screen movie theater, 10-lane bowling alley, ice skating rink, stores and restaurants. Solaris also will plant trees, flowers and bushes in a 300-foot-long, 18-foot-wide median on South Frontage Road.

Traer Creek, LLC wants to build another shopping center just west of Traer Creek Plaza in Avon and a residential and commercial development north of Interstate 70.

As a part of its annexation agreement with Avon, Traer Creek built a new Interstate 70 interchange, roundabouts and a railroad underpass that leads to U.S. Highway 6. The developer has given land to Avon for a fire station and is obligated to give land for a school and to build an ice skating rink. The company willingly gave land for an ambulance station, which was not a part of its annexation agreement with Avon.

“The town of Avon got a good very deal when it annexed the Village at Avon,” Traer Creek spokesman Dan Christopherson said.

Long-time Vail developer Harry Frampton says he hopes Ginn Resorts’ Chief Executive Officer Bobby Ginn will succeed. But Frampton wonders if Ginn has committed too much money.

Frampton’s company, East West Partners, withdrew in Feb. 2007 from the contest to rebuild the Lionshead parking structure, leaving a Texas group as the only developer to undertake the $600 million project. East West Partners pulled out because the town of Vail asked for more benefits than the company could afford, he said.

“There has been this perception that developers have unlimited money to pay for everything,” Frampton said.

The benefits to Minturn look “quite significant,” but hearing $162 million makes Frampton nervous, he said. Frampton has seen developments throughout the United States fail after too much money was promised to local governments. The ailing real estate market compounds the problem, Frampton said.

Frampton hasn’t studied the financial package Minturn may get from Ginn, but a development must work for the town, developer and residents ” especially with a long-term project like Ginn’s, he said.

“It needs to be a win-win,” Frampton said.

The town required that Ginn give it immediate cash funding, such as the more than $11 million the town has now, as well as benefits that are funded on a long-term basis as the resort develops, Cliff Thompson, Ginn’s director of communications, said in a statement. The funding fell within Ginn’s expectations, Thompson said.

“Because the project has been in the planning stage for more than three years, it has provided us the luxury of being able to carefully analyze and evaluate the wants and needs of both the town and the development,” Thompson said.

If Ginn’s development is approved but Ginn fails to fulfill its funding obligations, a “general improvement district” will safeguard the town.

“It’s just a matter of smart business practices,” Interim Town Manager Gary Suiter said.

The district will have the authority to fund improvements to the town and also will be used to fund annual operations and maintenance costs of parking lots and the bike path and recreation center.

That district will draw funding from property taxes for people who live on Battle Mountain, the location of Ginn’s resort, not existing residents.

“None of the benefits provided by the developer will put existing residents of Minturn at risk because they will be paid by the new residents of Battle Mountain,” Thompson said in the statement.

Ginn also will fund a $21.25 million wastewater treatment plant for Minturn and that will give the town the potential to reclaim the water rights it lost in the 1990s, Ginn has said. The town doesn’t know yet where the plant will go, Suiter said.

Residents also will have a say in how the town uses some of the money, Suiter said. Residents will help the town decide how to use the Forest Service lands and what they want out of the recreation center, which could include tennis courts, a swimming pool or racquetball courts, he said. Suiter estimates planning on that could last two years.

There also will be $250,000 in case the town wants wireless Internet technology. The technology to have it throughout the town has not been perfected yet, so “it’s sort of a future technology reserve fund,” Suiter said.

Forest Service lands will be appraised in June, and the town will bid on them afterward based on those appraisals, Suiter said.

Ginn also will clean up mine waste in the abandoned town of Gilman and Bolts Lake, Ginn has said. That cleanup will cost $50 million, Ginn has estimated.

“Vast areas” of open space on Ginn’s property will be preserved and Ginn will fund improvements to wildlife habitat in and around Minturn, Ginn has said.

For $50, Minturn and Red Cliff residents can ski a total of 30 days of each ski season, with a minimum of 10 days on weekends and holidays and at least three days each month during the ski season, Ginn has said.

With the pass, residents can golf 15 days, but must pay greens fees that will be competitive with local courses, Ginn has said.

Residents can use Ginn’s pools, meeting halls and can shop at retail businesses such as restaurants and ski shops.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at (970) 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.


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