RV park’s future murky in Minturn
Perhaps new Minturn Mayor Hawkeye Flaherty put it best when he summed up the reason for his landslide victory over incumbent Earl Bidez in last Tuesday’s town council election.
“I don’t think it was an election between Earl and (my) attitude toward the town,” Flaherty said, just moments after hearing he had won back the seat he lost to Bidez two years before. “I think it was just an election over whether people wanted an RV park or not.”
Certainly it appears the majority of Minturn’s voters so far aren’t thrilled with the council’s latest revenue-generating plan. For months, the council has been negotiating with a developer to build a recreational vehicle “resort” on town-owned land. While requests to put the issue to a public vote were dismissed, voters appear to have voiced their opinion anyway. The plan’s most vocal opponents, Flaherty and businessman Tom Sullivan, were the top vote-getters in the election.
As far as Sullivan is concerned, the proposal is dead. Flaherty could not be reached for comment Friday. But the majority of council members say it’s far too early to dismiss what could be an economic boon for the town.
Minturn resident Alan Holub doesn’t believe the plan is dead yet. While Sullivan and Flaherty have expressed disapproval for the idea, the verdict is still out for other council members.
Holub said he still likes the idea as a way to help the town’s dwindling revenues.
“I don’t think that an RV resort is a savior for our problems,” he said. “However, I think it is plausible, and with the current plan, economically viable.”
The pubic got its first look at preliminary plans for an RV resort last week, when Bidez urged the developer – Rocky Mountain RV Resorts – to publicly present its idea. During that presentation residents learned that the size of the project had doubled. Originally the town was considering a resort with 60 RV units and about 15 cabins. But to make the project financially successfully, architect Steve Isom explained to the crowd that the project now would have about 100 to 110 RV units and about 50 cabins.
In exchange for the substantially larger size, the developer agreed to build a recreation center, a swimming pool and a community building that all of Minturn’s residents could use.
Negotiations between Rocky Mountain RV Resorts and the Town Council were considered ongoing before Tuesday night. Now, Sullivan, who owns the Minturn Inn, isn’t so sure that’s necessary.
“I think the election spoke pretty clearly that the citizens don’t want the RV park and we represent the citizens,” he said. “It would be my belief that it should die.”
In the weeks leading up to the election, several residents expressed concern over the plan. Some feared bringing such a resort to town would change Minturn’s small-town atmosphere. Others believed the project wouldn’t bring more business to town.
Voters overwhelmingly supported Sullivan and Flaherty over the plan’s strongest supporters, Bidez and incumbent Ron Spohrer. Flaherty received 68 percent of the town’s 308 votes, while Bidez only received 31 percent. Spohrer finished a distant fifth among the five council candidates with 25 percent of votes.
Town Councilman Jerry Bumgarner, who was re-elected and has voiced neither support nor opposition to the plan, said it will be interesting to see if Rocky Mountain RV Resorts will continue to pursue the project given Tuesday’s election results, Bumgarner said.
“I know the designer came and saw the election results that night, but I didn’t talk to him about it,” he said.
Town Councilman Fred Haslee, who has been on the board since negotiations with the developer began, said the public – and the town’s leader, for that matter – don’t know enough about the proposal to make a decision yet.
Feasibility studies have shown that the park could attract 10,000 people annually to the town and with that, thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue. But the town still hasn’t seen a financial analysis for the project. Nor has the developer presented a visual picture of what the park would look like.
“We need more information,” Haslee said.
Town Councilman George Brodin, who was elected Tuesday, agreed, reiterating his belief that the RV park issue overshadowed the true purpose of the election. The public needs to be better informed, he said.
“I think it’s clouded in mystery and mystery always scares people,” he said. “We definitely need to make an informed decision. I don’t know if I can do that right now.”
After casting his vote Tuesday, Minturn resident Matt Morrison said he is concerned about the town’s financial future.
“We need to figure out a way to get people into town better,” he said.
But the RV resort would cause additional problems, he added. Morrison noted the town’s lack of public parking. Inviting drivers of big RVs would just make the problem worse.
But to kill the plan now would be “kind of ignorant and foolish,” said Town Councilman Darell Wegert.
“If you close the door, you have eliminated some sort of avenue,” he said. “And with Minturn not having any money we need to keep all the doors open.”
Wegert said he fears the public has jumped to conclusions on the project, based on a either lack of information or misconceptions.
The previous council, including himself, may be partly to blame for that, Wegert said.
The council was reluctant to reveal too much about the project without the developer’s expressed approval; in addition, the council feared saying too much, too soon might have legal ramifications for the town, Wegert said.
“And I can say that because I was on the previous council,” he said. “A lot of that was our fault.”
The council has to let residents know more about the project, said Town Councilman Bill Burnett. They might just like it if they knew more, he said.
“There’s a lot more discussion yet to come,” he said. “It’s not an out deal or a done deal.
“All I can say is I tried to get the council to let the people vote, but I was voted down,” Burnett added. “This election appears to be the vote.”
The proposed recreational vehicle resort for Minturn would include:
– 100-110 RV units
– 40-50 cabins
It would also include the following facilities for use by Minturn residents and park users:
– An enclosed swimming pool and outside sun deck
– Restrooms and locker rooms
– Exercise room with equipment
– Community building with attached kitchen facilities
– Meeting rooms
– Parking area for the facility
Proposed lease agreement for the property, located on Minturn’s east side:
– 20-year lease with an option to renew for 20 additional years.
Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.