Boon or bane, second homes dominate
In the 1970s, he sold second homes. Then, seeing an opportunity, he started Alpenglow Property Management, a company that caters to people who own those homes.”I was asked to take care of some clients’ homes, and it went from there,” Lebo said. Over the years, Lebo – who asks clients to consider his company as a kind of do-everything local concierge – has seen and heard just about every request imaginable, including chartering planes and pet-sitting.Neither of those jobs was as simple as it sounds.For the pets – in this case, three Persian cats – the owners asked for someone to be in their home around the clock to make sure their felines were cared for and happy. Chartering planes is pretty straightforward, most of the time. Then there was the day a client was dropped off by his own plane at the Eagle County airport. The client stayed, his jet left.The next day, an emergency on the West Coast left the client needing a ride. Lebo made a couple of calls to people he knows at the airport, and soon after, the client was winging his way back home in the jet of another wealthy visitor.No one is ‘typical’Second homes can include everything from condos to homes in middle-class neighborhoods to mansions on vast spreads backing up to a national forest. The mansions may get much of the attention, but the majority of second homes are more modest.According to a 2004 study about second homes conducted by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, 68 percent of all second homes in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Grand counties are smaller than 2,000 square feet, and 73 percent of those units are valued at less than $400,000. Boulder attorney Karl Anuta lives in one of those smaller units. He’s owned his two-bedroom condo at Copper Mountain since the lifts there opened in 1972.Originally from the Midwest, Anuta moved to Colorado to attend law school. He fell in love with the mountains, and with skiing. “I found I liked the place, the slopes here, and I like the way the mountain is laid out,” he said of Copper Mountain.
Over the years, Anuta brought his family to the resort and watched his kids learn to ski there. Now his grandchildren come along. Gradually, the condo became a real home away from home.”I used to rent it out occasionally,” he said. “Over the last three or four years, I’ll rent it to friends, or people who have rented before, but I’m getting a lot more use out of it. It’s literally a second home now.”Second home evolutionAnuta is among a growing number of second-home owners using their places more. Nearly half the people who took the 2004 survey said they want to spend more time at their second homes.”A lot of people over the years have retired here,” Anuta said of his 28-unit condo building.Other owners are still working, either full- or part-time, and more people are doing their jobs from their mountain retreats.”Technology allowed me over the years to spend an increasing amount of time in Vail,” said Alan Kosloff, who has become a full-time resident of the town.”It started with the fax machine,” he said. “I could ski, then come down and there’d be a bunch of faxes. I’d take care of them, fax back the next day and go skiing again.”Fax machines gave way to computers and high-speed Internet access. Now, one of Anuta’s neighbors spends about half his time at Copper Mountain and the rest traveling on business. His home office is all he needs, Anuta said.Like Anuta, Kosloff bought his first mountain home in the 1970s, starting with a condo his family bought in partnership with three other families. Over the years, the Kosloffs traded up, and now own a home in Vail’s exclusive Forest Road neighborhood, right next to the ski slopes.With a home in the mountains, the Kosloffs made what for them was an easy decision to move when Alan stopped working full-time.
A big piece of piePeople like Anuta and Kosloff represent a huge part of the mountain economy. The council of governments survey found that 34 percent of all the outside money coming into the region came from second homes. That figure includes construction, maintenance, taxes paid and other spending by the owners. The second-biggest piece of the economic pie is winter tourism at 28 percent of the total.But the size of the second-home economy worries some decision-makers. A temporary moratorium on new subdivisions in Eagle County between October of last year and April of this year was spurred, at least in part, by worries that second homes create jobs increasingly filled by people who must commute from farther and farther away. One estimate predicts that as many 30,000 workers a day will commute into Eagle County by 2025, up from about 5,000 per day in 2005.Second-home buyers are increasingly purchasing property in communities that have traditionally been home to the local middle class, pricing locals out of neighborhoods close to resorts. Other locals retire and sell their homes to people from out of town. The end result is the loss of housing for full-time residents who volunteer for everything from scout troops to town councils.Linda Venturoni, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments researcher who wrote the second-home survey, has first-hand experience with that phenomenon in her own Summit County neighborhood in Dillon near the Keystone ski resort.”About half the homes in my neighborhood are second homes,” Venturoni said. “Across the street is a second home that the owners rent out, so we have different people in and out. Another family is from the Front Range. They’re here regularly, so they’ve really become neighbors.”The good newsAs some in government worry about second homes and their effects on communities, others sing the praises of second-home owners.”Some people don’t know how lucky we are,” said Harry Frampton. Frampton is a founding partner of Slifer, Smith and Frampton – a regional real estate company – as well as East West Partners, a development company that has done work in Eagle and Summit counties and Denver.
“These people enrich our community, they give a lot of money personally, and they pay a huge amount of taxes,” he said. And, in the case of places like Beaver Creek, second homes have little, if any, effect on locals.”These people consume almost no public services,” Beaver Creek Resort Company Director Tony O’Rourke said. Second-home owners usually don’t have kids in school, and almost never call the police, ambulance or fire departments, he added. “It’s like renting a room in your house to someone who’s almost never there.”But those who own second homes know some locals view their more affluent neighbors with anything from mistrust to disdain. “I think some people are fearful,” said Mel Blumenthal, a condo owner in Snowmass Village.That fear, he said, is especially acute when talking about political power.”The permanent population receives tremendous benefits for this size of town,” Blumenthal said. “I think some of them fear that if we got the vote, second-home owners would be concerned about reducing our taxes. But it’s not my sense that we’re being gouged.”Many second-home owners write checks – big ones – to local nonprofits such as music and arts festivals, as well as education programs for locals.The Vail Valley Foundation started a program called “Success at Six” for the 2005-06 school year. That program provided the Eagle County School District with about $250,000 in scholarships to put children into local all-day kindergarten programs. Only half-day kindergarten is free in most Colorado school districts.”At least half the support for that program has come from second-home owners,” said Ceil Folz, director of the Vail Valley Foundation. Second-home owners volunteer for local events, and, of course, write checks, and lots of them, Folz said.”It’s a great resource, if you know how to use it,” she said.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 14624, or at email@example.com.
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