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Glenwood pans Sunlight plan

Pete Fowler
Garfield County correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The Glenwood Springs City Council said Thursday it will urge Garfield County to deny a development application for Sunlight Mountain Resort, citing the developers’ poor examination of impacts such as traffic and housing.

“My motion will be that the city of Glenwood Springs strongly recommends that Garfield County not approve the development as submitted in this PUD (planned unit development) and all of these documents, based on inadequacies of treatment of traffic, housing, public safety and other impacts,” said Councilman Dave Sturges.

The motion passed unanimously, though most council members said they want to see the project succeed and noted they’re loyal Sunlight skiers.

The City Council has no decision-making authority over the plans, but will forward its input to the county. The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission will review the development proposal for the ski resort, located outside of Glenwood Springs, on Sept. 24.

The Sunlight plan includes ski area enhancements such as new lifts, new terrain, a mountaintop restaurant and increased snowmaking, plus more lodging, employee housing and commercial development. Three small, mixed-use villages, to be connected by a gondola to the base of the ski area, are proposed. The plan calls for 830 residential units in all, with about 50 designated as employee housing. About 530 units would be located at the base.

The pending sale of the resort to a Florida-based company, Exquisite Development, is contingent upon county approval of the plan. The redevelopment could help revitalize the resort, which has experienced a decline in skier visits since the late 1990s and is looking to expand on its local base of skiers and snowboarders. Construction would begin in 2010 or 2011 and take eight to 15 years to complete.

The City Council, however, found the proposed employee housing woefully inadequate, given the number of jobs the redeveloped resort is expected to generate. Mike Dooley, operations manager of Exquisite Development, said some 750 employees would staff the expanded resort. Sunlight’s general manager, Tom Jankovsky, said Sunlight currently employs about 160 people ” most are part-time workers.

If 50 employees are housed near Sunlight, “where will the other 700 of them live?” asked Councilman Dave Merritt.

“I couldn’t answer that question at this point,” Dooley responded.

Councilwoman Shelley Kaup predicted most of the employees would work in the service industry, on the lower end of the pay scale, and would likely be unable to afford housing in Glenwood Springs.

Added Councilman Russ Arensman: “I have to say I’m a little disappointed in the lack of information and the lack of preparation I see here for some pretty basic questions: What is the population? What are the traffic impacts? … There’s a lot of concerns and I’m not hearing any real answers.”

Dooley had said at one point that he didn’t have a prediction for the area’s total population beyond the figure for 830 residential units.

“I’m extremely disappointed with the number of ‘nos’ or ‘we will considers’ that are in the responses to our questions,” said Mayor Bruce Christensen.

Council members also said they were disappointed the developer didn’t agree to a joint review of the plans by both the city and the county. And, they voiced concerns about inadequate planning for traffic impacts and public safety issues, such as fire and police protection.

“It’s very clear that this is not going to be a community; this is going to be a luxury resort with something like a high-class 7-Eleven,” Merritt said. “So anything from a dozen eggs to underwear, you’d be going down to town for. I have real concerns over the traffic generation.”


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