Will Minturn voters have say on ski resort? | VailDaily.com

Will Minturn voters have say on ski resort?

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

MINTURN, Colorado ” Two Minturn residents have turned in several petitions to the town hoping to let voters decide whether a private ski resort will be built on Battle Mountain.

Frank Lorenti and Pete Vance, who created the petitions, want Minturn residents to decide whether the Ginn Development Co. can build 1,700 homes and condominiums and a private ski resort and golf course in Minturn.

In a major step toward letting Ginn proceed with its plans, town councilors unanimously voted two weeks ago to annex land owned by Ginn into Minturn. Town councilors will vote again, possibly later this year, to finally approve or deny the project.

Lorenti has given his petitions to town staffers for review. If town staffers and attorneys approve the language in the petitions and return it to Lorenti, he will begin asking Minturn voters to sign them, he said.

He doesn’t know when he will get them back, he said, but Lorenti has until early April to gather the signatures.

Ten percent of Minturn residents registered to vote in the last election (around 80 voters) would have to sign the petition. Signatures must be signed in ink and dated, and people have to include their addresses.

If the petition is approved by Minturn’s town clerk, town councilors will vote again on whether to approve the annexation, said Gary Suiter, Minturn’s interim town manager.

Councilors will likely vote yes, and then the citizens would vote on whether to approve or deny the annexation, Suiter said.

Vance is helping Lorenti with the petitions.

“The destiny of a town is controlled by the citizens,” Vance said.

Vance said he might vote yes if a referendum were held, but he also thinks the town might have more bargaining power to get what it wants if people voted no.

Ginn has said it will house 50 percent of its workers (an unprecedented percentage in Eagle County); build new sidewalks, a recreation and community center, a day-care center, a library and a bike path from Minturn to Red Cliff; and give $350,000 for scholarships for Minturn residents, among other benefits.

The development is expected net millions in tax revenue for Minturn and town councilors have said they made a good deal with Ginn.

Suiter said if voters repealed the annexation, Ginn could reapply for annexation ” or it might not and all negotiations would be off, he said.

Lorenti, who has started a Web site ” minturntimes.com ” to promote his petitions, complains that town councilors did not give residents the chance to vote on the project. Lorenti points out that town councilors let citizens vote on a proposed RV park in 2004.

“The town council is not treating the citizens fairly,” Lorenti said.

Lorenti would like to see residents vote their conscience, he said.

However, Lorenti wants to vote no and bring Ginn back into negotiations so the town resolves some issues, such as Ginn’s plan to clean up mine waste clean-up, which has yet to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“I’d like to see the citizens vote and we can take it from there,” Lorenti said.

Ginn has agreed to clean mine waste in Minturn and cannot proceed with its plans to build several condominium buildings at Bolts Lake, including one up to 195-foot-tall, until EPA approves the clean-up.

Eagle County could have made a deal with Ginn or Red Cliff could have would annexed Ginn’s property, town councilors have said. Town Councilwoman Shelley Bellm, who is running for mayor, has called the development “inevitable.”

“If we had not annexed this project and Eagle County or Red Cliff controlled the development, there would be no way we could protect what we cherish most about Minturn,” councilors wrote in a recent letter published letter in the Vail Daily.

Lorenti and Vance think that Minturn was the only town that had the water rights to support Ginn’s private golf course, ski resort and homeowners.

“He came to Minturn because he needs our water rights,” Lorenti added. “Bottom line.”

Lorenti and Vance think Minturn was the only town that had the water rights to support Ginn’s private golf course, ski resort and homeowners.

“He came to Minturn because he needs our water rights,” Lorenti said, “bottom line.”

“That’s not true,” Mayor Gordon “Hawkeye” Flaherty said. Red Cliff may have adequate water rights to serve the development ” and if it didn’t have enough water it could acquire more, Flaherty said.

Flaherty supports Minturn residents’ right to vote.

Some residents who attended or watched the meetings on television may have enough information to decide if they vote, but Flaherty wants to educate Minturn residents who haven’t paid as much attention, he said.

That’s why town councilors will hold public meetings where people can ask questions about the development, he said.

“We’re going to try to have as many as we can to get all the information out so citizens can make an informed decision,” he said.

For more information on how to sign Frank Lorenti’s petition for a referendum on a private ski resort, go to minturntimes.com.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached a 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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