RV developers have plenty of work to do
MINTURN – Getting a recreational vehicle resort on Minturn’s ballot was just the first hurdle for Rocky Mountain RV Resorts. Getting Minturn’s voters to buy into the idea of having an RV park built in town will likely be the developer’s hardest sell of all.The future of the project no longer depends on the throes of a town’s planning and development processes. Large projects in Eagle County typically garner plenty of public opinion, good and bad. But ultimately the power to allow a development to go forward lies in the hands of a few – the town councils and county boards. In Minturn this fall, that power lies in the hands of many. Skip Ahren is the president of Rocky Mountain RV Resorts, which has built RV parks in Estes Park, Grand Junction and Golden. But his experience in Minturn has been unique, Ahren said. Nevertheless, he said he “welcomes this very much.””I think once the citizens have the opportunity to vote on it, I think it will really clear the air a lot in Minturn,” he said.Power of the people Faced with stagnant revenues and increasing costs to supply water, repair streets and maintain sewers, town officials began to search for ways to bring money to Minturn a few years ago. That effort inspired the RV park idea. The council at the time eventually began negotiations with Ahren’s company, but the company name was kept confidential. And there was plenty of opposition to the project as residents said they were worried how such a large development could affect Minturn, with a population of only 1,300. That fear and others prompted several residents to demand a public vote on the issue — an idea initially rejected.
When the April 6 council election came, residents appeared to voice their opinion anyway. They cast out incumbent members who were the project’s biggest supporters, and overwhelmingly supported the project’s biggest opponents. That result, coupled with threats that a lawsuit would be filed if the project wasn’t placed on a ballot, are two among several reasons why Ahren said he thinks letting Minturn residents decide is best.”Once either side knows it has the thumbs up or the thumbs down, it will become a less difficult process,” Ahren said. The RV park would be built on town-owned land on Minturn’s south side. A gravel pit has leased the land from the town for years. The RV park developers also would lease that land, but such a long lease would essentially equal the sale of town property, argued Tom Sullivan, who was elected to the council in April. He and property owner Woody Woodruff crafted the letter that threatened the lawsuit.Ahren said his company has no desire to enter a legal quagmire, which is another reason why a public vote is best. Furthermore, Ahren said he is confident that once the facts get out and residents understand the project, voters will back the RV park. His company is preparing a video that will be distributed to community members to share with residents. Some residents have agreed to host get-togethers to discuss the proposal.”We aren’t the least afraid of it,” he said. “We are looking forward to it.”
Still skepticalRocky Mountain RV Resorts would pay all the costs of building the resort, sparing any financial risk to the town. In addition to building cabins and RV hookups for guests, the developer would build a recreation center, pool and community pavilion that could be used by both park guests and Minturn residents. Rocky Mountain RV Resorts also is confident the venture will bring revenue to town – not only through the lease, but by the property taxes and the business RVers will generate, Ahren said. But Minturn resident Jill Koelhoffer said she isn’t convinced. The numbers just don’t make sense to her.”I think they were slick with what they are saying,” she said. “The financial pay out doesn’t equal what the town will lose.”The proposal would place the recreation center, pool and community pavilion in locations that would make it difficult for residents to get to, and Koelhoffer believes residents are only getting one side of the story, she said. “We are being told everything that would benefit the town,” she said. “The town really needs to know every single part of it.”Daryn Miller said he agrees.”I think both sides need to be informed of the pros and the cons and the logistics of it,” he said. “I’m against the RV park myself just because they are renting 34 acres for $25,000 a year. That’s not a whole lot of money for what they will be making on it.”
Instead of developing the 10-acre parcel, the town should seek ways to have the entire lot benefit the entire Minturn community, Koelhoffer said.She said she’s worried about the impact such a development might have on wildlife that graze in that area. Koelhoffer sees elk by the Eagle River in that area frequently, she said. And then there’s the less-difficult-to-predict impact of how an RV resort that could bring upwards of 250 people to town will change a small, quaint community like Minturn, she said. “It’s the only town in the valley that doesn’t cater to tourists,” she said. “We have residents here.”Nevertheless, putting it to a vote is the best idea, Miller said. He suspects residents are about evenly split on the issue, making voter turnout key, he said. This time, Minturn residents will know exactly what they are voting on, he said. “With the last election, people didn’t know if they were voting for them or not on the RV park,” he said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail Daily