Minturn prepares for de-annexation
Town, Battle Mountain plan to meet to discuss developer's request to disconnect its Bolts Lake property
MINTURN — With a key water deal denied, the Battle Mountain developer and the town of Minturn are planning to meet next week to discuss the future of the Bolts Lake property.
“We do look forward to meeting with Minturn next week to discuss next steps for the property,” Kristin Kenney Williams, a spokeswoman for the developer, said Thursday.
The developer has submitted an application to “disconnect,” or de-annex, 543 acres near Bolts Lake — the area where it wants to build the 712 homes — from the town. It would also deannex about 100 acres at Gilman, the abandoned mining town.
The next step is to meet with the town in the “pre-application discussion.”
“Tim McGuire (vice president of development for Battle Mountain Resort) and I have talked about scheduling a meeting for the pre-application discussion sometime next week,” said Town Manager Michelle Metteer.
The town council unanimously rejected a deal Aug. 7 that would have provided the developer enough water for its Bolts Lake proposal.
At that meeting, Lorne Bassel, president and CEO of the Crave Real Estate, the developer, said the funders of the project had been patient, but were trying to get the project to move forward.
“I think, quite frankly, it really comes down to this: If you fundamentally as a town don’t want us here and we don’t belong and you don’t want us in the community, then it’s time to move on,” he said.
How to de-annex
Now, the town is working to create a framework for disconnecting the property from the town.
Last week, the town council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that establishes a procedure and standards for the de-annexation process, adding clarity to what is outlined in Colorado law.
At the meeting, Minturn town attorney Mike Sawyer said the disconnections don’t happen frequently — when annexations occur, the property usually remains part of a town forever, he said.
But the road to development hasn’t been smooth in this case.
“As everyone is aware, there have been bumps in the road with Battle Mountain,” Sawyer said. “We’re not sure if they intend to pursue their request for disconnection, but in light of the letter that was sent, we figured it was in the best interest of the town to actually have some code provision specific for a request for disconnection.”
The town council would have to approve the de-annexation.
The landowner also has the right to petition a court for an order of disconnection, bypassing the town council, Sawyer said.
A rare occurrence
Kevin Bommer, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, also said de-annexations are rare.
Bommer cited a 2018 “friendly disconnection” from the town of Morrison, in which 345 acres were de-annexed from the town in advance of a 1,350-home development — but Morrison would still provide water and sewer services to the development.
In 2014, an Erie property owner, Aaron Harber, sued the town, saying it had been unresponsive to his requests for de-annexation, according to Boulder Daily Camera reports.
The town had annexed the land the previous year. Plans for the 328-acre property called for more than 25,000 mixed-use and residential units. But the town began to backtrack on supporting the development concept, according to the complaint, the Daily Camera reported.
In 2015, a judge ruled that the parcel should be disconnected from Erie, according to the Daily Camera.
‘There’s nothing there’
Battle Mountain’s 3,500-acre mountaintop property, closer to Red Cliff, is not included in the de-annexation application.
The property was put on the market in 2017, with an asking price of $19.5 million. It remains for sale at that price.
Town emails show that Minturn officials met with a developer in July and August who sought to develop the mountaintop property with 40 homes and a $31 million “eco lodge.” The lodge, dubbed “The Alpinist,” would be 50,000-square-foot, two stories, and have 48 rooms.
The developer, Mark Knauer, founder and president of Knauer Inc., of Deerfield, Illinois, said his group his interested is still very interested in buying the property.
“(We) have outlined very favorable terms to the seller with funding in place, and would like to develop the Eco-Adventure Wellness Resort that we have designed for the property,” he told the Vail Daily on Friday via email.
Knauer added the proposal would bring lodging and sales taxes to the town in excess of $350,000 per year, and require no services or cost to the town.
But McGuire said the proposal is a nonstarter.
“We’re not entertaining it,” he said. “We’re not considering it. There’s nothing there.”
How we got here
The deal that Minturn rejected Aug. 7 proposed an “interconnect” that would have piped water from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s supply into Minturn, with the town able to buy water at a bulk rate.
The developer said it would move forward with de-annexation if Minturn did not approve the deal.
“The Battle Mountain Entities have not arrived at this decision to request disconnection lightly,” Munsey L. Ayers, an attorney for Battle Mountain, wrote to the town July 23. “While implementation of the Bolts Lake Concept remains the objective, there appears to be insufficient community support or Town Council resolve to justify an expectation of progress occuring to that end.”
In December 2004, a Florida developer, the Ginn Companies, bought 5,300 acres between Minturn and Red Cliff for $32.5 million from the owners of the defunct New Jersey Zinc Mine. The original Battle Mountain plan, put forward by developer Bobby Ginn in 2005, included 1,700 homes, 36 holes of golf, a private ski area and commercial space.
In 2008, residents voted overwhelmingly to annex 4,300 acres of the Battle Mountain property into town. About 87 percent of voters favored the plan. Residents were promised $162 million in benefits, including a recreation center, library, new sidewalks, a paved bike path from Dowd Junction to Red Cliff, a new water and wastewater treatment plant and scholarships for Minturn residents.
But just as the original agreements were being signed, the economy tanked.
The current vision for the Bolts Lake area, with up to 712 homes, was submitted last year.