Minturn, Battle Mountain near development agreement | VailDaily.com

Minturn, Battle Mountain near development agreement

Members of the Minturn Town Council, town staff and public toured the Battle Mountain property this fall. The property was envisioned to be a ski resort before the recession.

MINTURN — Development in Eagle County takes years to plan, seconds to break and about 10 years to repair.

In the past decade at the privately owned Battle Mountain property south of town, there have been countless meetings between the land owner and the council, even agreements, but the 3,500-acre parcel remains pristine land with no construction.

That may change soon as the Minturn Town Council will vote at its March 1 meeting on second readings of two ordinances to approve a development plan by Battle Mountain Development Co. at its mountaintop parcel — a valuable piece of land not owned by the Forest Service. The property owned at Bolt's Lake has been separated from the mountaintop parcel and will be presented after the mountaintop.

"We are very eager to talk about Bolt's Lake," said Tim McGuire, of Battle Mountain Development Co., at Wednesday's Town Council meeting, where an ordinance laying out the development plan for the mountaintop parcel passed, 6-0, on first reading.

WHERE IT STARTED

Battle Mountain is land once populated by Native Americans. In the mid-1800s, the Utes and Arapahos engaged in a multi-day battle, giving the area its name. The area was then filled with miners in 1879 until about 1984. Since the miners left, the owners of the Battle Mountain property have changed through various corporate acquisitions, including CBS/Viacom.

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In 2004, the property was purchased by Florida developer Bobby Ginn for $32.75 million with visions of a gated community with a 10-lift ski resort, golf course and luxury hotels — another Beaver Creek-like destination. The development proposal required an annexation into Minturn for the town's services, which residents approved in 2008.

The deal included great benefits to the town, including the developer filling Bolt's Lake before any housing began. It also included a new water plant for the town and wastewater treatment facility. The escrow to the town totaled nearly $12 million, some of which has been used toward projects around town, including Little Beach Park.

By 2009, the recession was in full swing and the Ginn Company was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at two of its Florida resorts, putting the Eagle County project on hold — ultimately killing the ski resort project. Ginn resigned from the investment group in 2009, and Crave Community Co. — now Battle Mountain Development Co. — became the new management group.

The town and new management company decided to split the remaining escrow in 2011, and Battle Mountain Development Co. resurfaced in 2015 with a moderate plan it said was focused on affordable housing.

That plan involved land swaps with the Forest Service near Meadow Mountain, causing residents to pack Town Hall during a meeting to adamantly oppose changing the community feel of Minturn by adding more homes that they didn't see as affordable housing.

With many residents asking the developer to build on its own land, that's exactly what it planned when returning to the drawing board, again.

WHERE IT'S GOING

The new project is now more self-sufficient for the developer, and it splits the first proposal into two. At the council's next meeting, it will vote to approve the first part — the mountaintop parcel — before moving on to the Bolt's Lake area as a separate proposal.

Instead of over 1,000 housing units as initially planned, the 3,500-acre mountaintop parcel will now have 100 units max. It will most likely be divided into a mixture of 35-acre estate lots and 100-acre ranch lots.

"The whole thing will be a much lower impact project," Mayor pro tempore Earle Bidez said.

The ordinance the council is voting on will allow for large lots at the mountaintop parcel, making 35-acre lots possible and allowing the units to use wells for water — a burden off of the town.

It's up to the developer to figure out the roads, too.

The ordinance also has wording that allows for the owner of the property to teeter between the new deal and the former deal — the ski resort plan — if the owner fulfills all of the requirements of the previous deal — which the town already agreed to years ago.

"It would take a very special land owner to make that happen," said town attorney Mike Sawyer.

It also includes a commitment from Battle Mountain to provide public access points to recreate on the land: the Peregrine Falcon hiking trail; an easement for public use of an existing road to an overlook of Red Cliff; access to the Eagle River and a legal document allowing the public to use Shrine Pass Road through the property.

"In part of our negotiations, we wanted to have public access up there because it's a beautiful property," Bidez said.

The details of the access points is still being worked out.

The ordinance also locks in town codes for 20 years to establish "ground rules," Sawyer said.

The Bolt's Lake area will be approached "shortly after this," Bidez said.

"That's where it's going to get tougher. It's just a lot more going on," he said.

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram @colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Moving forward:

Battle Mountain Development Co. will be addressing two pieces of property it owns separately with the Minturn Town Council. First is the mountaintop parcel, and second will be at property it owns at the Bolt’s Lake area. The council will be voting on second readings of two ordinances at its meeting March 1 regarding the mountaintop parcel.