RVs in hands of Minturn voters
MINTURN – Sometimes in local government an issue arises that’s so divisive to the community that leaders ask voters to decide.That’s the case in 100-year-old Minturn, a town of 1,100, where town leaders are asking voters about authorizing the town to lease 38 acres of town-owned land to a developer who wants to build a $13 million, 19-acre recreational vehicle park south of town. Aside from whatever business the park generates, if voters back the idea the town will also get access to a 12,000 square-foot community recreation center and a 4,000 square-foot pavilion at no expense to the town. The park is part of an economic development plan to spur flagging retail activity in town, which aims to increase the sales taxes that supply one-third of the town’s $1.25 million budget. By contrast, the neighboring town of Vail has an annual operating budget exceeding $40 million.Proponents of the park say it can add up to $186,000 in sales tax, lease payments and other fees to town coffers in its first year of operation and up to $3 million over its first 10 years. Park visitors are expected to also spend an average of $89 per day at Minturn’s businesses and elsewhere. Opponents fear the development will change the character of their town, which has clung to its small town roots, while all around it resorts like Vail and Beaver Creek have mushroomed.”We can stick to what makes us great or go the way the rest of the valley went and have condo after condo,” said Tom Sullivan, a town councilman and owner of the Minturn Inn. “We like the small-town nature and intimacy of knowing your neighbor.”He feels the park is a bad deal for the town and that if it’s built, it will add more traffic to streets that he says are already clogged, Sullivan said.Supporters like Harry Gray, a commercial landlord who also runs Harry’s Bump and Grind Coffee Shop and Art Gallery, says the town needs the money just to keep the status quo.”It’s a good thing for Minturn. Minturn has no money under the mattress for a contingency fund” he said. “The town is one water or sewer hiccup away from where Red Cliff is. No funds, no plan and nothing to fall back on.”Approval of the measure only means voters have given the Town Council authority to continue negotiating with Rocky Mountain RV Resorts and the council would still have the give the project final approval.
Trophy homes and traffic”There are people who don’t want Minturn to change,” Gray continued. “That’s fine, but they have no idea of how a town is supposed to operate. It needs a certain amount of industry just to stay the same. It’s the little margin between making it and operating in the red.”Proposal supporter Ty Gillespie said he worries what will happen if the RV park isn’t approved.”I don’t know what you would do up there,” he said, referring to the land that could be home to the park. “Maybe there would be some trophy homes.”Gray added that making a business work in Minturn is difficult because it lacks both a critical mass of retail to attract people and it also has to compete with other, more heavily developed areas of the county.But Sullivan said he feels the proposed park could degrade quality of life.”Main Street residents are already having a a tough time because of the traffic,” he said. “It’s becoming a less desirable place to live. It used to be a front porch community.” “If you can’t sit on your front porch any more it takes away from the charm and ambiance of the town,” he added.If the proposal is approved by voters, Sullivan said he will “grin and bear it,” and that he would work to make the park the best it can possibly be.Gillespie echoes Gray’s sentiments and added a few more, saying Minturn was “barely viable.””If we had an RV park the people in RVs would come and that would mean 25 more dinners in town on the weekend, and people on the streets,” he said.He is concerned there is some confusion in the minds of town residents who may believe the proposal deals with mobile homes and not RVs, which can cost as much as a home, he said.
Away from I-70Gillespie said the concerns about traffic have been blown out of proportion.”A lot of those RVs are already going through here anyway,” he said “They’re on the scenic byway to Leadville.”Traffic studies show the park would likely generate up to 760 vehicle trips a day, an 8 percent increase over existing traffic on Highway 24 and Cemetery Road.Aggie Martinez, who lives across the street from the proposed park said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to build the park there.”I think there’s a better place outside of town,” he said. “It’s up on the hill where everyone can see it. The batch plant is dusty and noisy. I can imagine what it will be like when they have all those diesel RVs coming through.”Martinez, who has lived in Minturn for 44 years, added that elk use the site in winter.”I look out my window and see them all winter long,” he said.Martinez also said he has reservations about the ability of the local roads and the bridge leading to the site to handle the traffic.Skip Ahern of Rocky Mountain RV Resorts, with whom the town has been working on the proposal, said building an RV park in Minturn is more expensive than in some of the other area his company has built RV resorts, mostly because of its proximity to the resorts in Vail and Beaver Creek, he said.One of the largest expenses will be bringing sewer and water lines to the park. That’s expected to cost $500,000, he said studies have shown. He likes the site because it’s far enough away from Interstate 70 that highway noise for campers will be minimal, Ahern said.
“That’s difficult to do in the I-70 corridor,” he said.Minturn RV ParkTotal cost to developer, $13 million• 75 RV spaces and 32 cabins and two larger family cabins• 4,000 square-foot community pavilion• 12,000 square-foot community recreation center with indoor swimming pool, exercise equipment and meeting rooms• The developer will make a $25,000 grant to improve nearby La Playuella ParkWording of the ballotShall the town of Minturn enter into an agreement with Rocky Mountain RV Resorts (RMRVR) to replace the current concrete batch plant, radio tower and site of former gravel pit located on Parcel 7, NEQ (northeast quarter) of the NEQ of Section 35 T5s R81 and surrounding land (commonly known as the SE parcel of the Lionshead Character Area), with development of a family resort and a new Minturn Recreation Center with swimming pool, an enclosed pavilion with meeting rooms, cabins and luxury RV sites, such agreement to include, but not limited to the following: (a) a long-term land lease to RMRVR, with the option to purchase, and (b) a development and operating agreement, both to be on terms approved by the Minturn Town Council, provided that the Town of Minturn shall not incur any bonded indebtedness to finance this project.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or email@example.comVail, Colorado
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