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Weighing a mountain

Kaye FerrySpecial to the Daily

I went to a party this weekend. It was a party with an agenda but that’s OK because everybody knew that ahead of time. It was actually a fundraiser for Friends of Battle Mountain.You may not have heard of them before, but you will. Many of the valley’s self-appointed consciences were there, and they’re on a mission. I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing.The group was gathered to listen to what’s planned for the Ginn property. Before I go one step further, I want to make it perfectly clear that at least at this point, I have not formed an opinion. I went to gather some information and I’d like to think that I was invited because of my sparkling personality. But I suspect it was primarily because several hoped I would write about it. So that’s what I’m doing.Minturn is at a very serious point in its development. It has some significant financial issues to deal with, and not many sources of revenue. It is struggling with an unstable retail base that even at full tilt does not pay the bills. The longtime residents are being lured out or driven out as real estate prices soar in what was once a sleepy little mountain enclave.And then along came Bobby Ginn. He is the developer that paid $37 million for 5,300 acres known as the Gillman property.He is thought by some to be the savior of this tiny town on Highway 24. Alternately, he is seen as an outsider with grandiose plans that could have excruciating consequences for the entire valley. The land he is attempting to build on is zoned for one home per 35 acres. That comes to roughly 151 homes on that property as it sits. It also allows for an equal number of caretaker units. The developer has proposed annexation to the town of Minturn, which would then allow the density to be determined by the regulations governing that community, and taken out of the control of the state or county. If annexation occurs, the estimate is that 1,700 units will be built, which includes single family homes, condos, hotels rooms etc. Additionally, there are plans for a private ski area and a private golf course, retail, restaurants and a variety of other amenities. There are several parts of this puzzle that have caused the antenna to rise among concerned citizens, environmentalists, politicians and residents of Minturn and the neighboring communities. There are significant implications as regards impacts this development will have on the environment, water, transportation, traffic, wildlife, pollution, safety, property values and taxes, as well as quality of life in general. I bring this up simply for awareness. As I said, I have formed no position on this. But as usual, I believe in the public process and the involvement of the community on issues that will directly affect our collective future. Minturn’s planning commission is holding its first public hearing on this application on Feb. 15. Friends of Battle Mountain is encouraging the public to attend and become educated. And here lies the problem as I see it.The linchpin of this proposal is the town of Minturn. They are the ones who will determine if the benefits being offered to them are worth the trade for all of the inherent problems associated with a large development. For if allowed, it is a development that will without question forever change the complexion of a community that thus far has felt little effect of the sprawl and economic explosion that has occurred around them.One question asked the other night was “Is it Minturn’s turn? Do other communities have a right to interfere?” And I think that’s a fair debate to pursue.As you’ve probably guessed over the past three years of reading this column, I tend toward political conservatism. Translated, that means I support the ability to own private property and consequently develop it as the law allows. There is a fine line between free enterprise and the effect private development has on the public. If pushed, however, I’ll always come down on the side of the rights of the property owner. But that position does not preclude discussion in the pursuit of a compromise that is good for all entities.And that’s where we are. The discussion in an official capacity is about to begin. Anyone with concerns about this property should take advantage of the opportunity to listen, learn and participate.So we come to the crux of the problem. As a Minturn sage pointed out, there’s a big difference between input and interference. Care must be taken not to bully the Minturn community. They have more at stake than anyone else, and I believe that they must be allowed to control their own destiny.It can only be through thoughtful and respectful exchanges that there is any hope of effecting a compromise – one that will bring results that will give the developer whatever rights he’s entitled to, combined with a balance that is good for Minturn and the rest of the valley. MISCELLANEOUS: There were 590 cars on the Frontage Road Saturday. They lined up from the Cascade on the west all the way back to parallel with the golf course starter shack on the east. They’ve been there almost every weekend so far. With the current snow conditions, it’s likely they’ll line the road for the rest of the season.So the question remains. How many cars will it take before we view it as a problem? And since The Grind is closed, I know it’s not my customers. We’re all glad for the business, but it’s an accident waiting to happen.Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado


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