Breck officials review detailed gondola plans
BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Planning Commission recently got its first detailed glimpse of the ski resort’s plans for the Cucumber Creek Gondola, which is proposed to run from Watson parking lot up to Shock Hill, over Cucumber Gulch and drop skiers off at Peaks 7 and 8.In general, the planning commission gave it a favorable review, but suggested resort officials redesign the base terminal to better fit the town’s architecture.Commissioner Herman Haering suggested they redesign the base terminal to “make more of a powerful statement that reflects Breckenridge,” such as has been done in Telluride. There, base terminals – they call them gondola plazas – feature an earth-toned rustic building, welcome center, heated lamps and benches.Commissioner Dave Pringle said he was on the fence in regards to the architecture, but didn’t want to compromise the function of the terminal and its stations. He suggested they build a false-front roof on the Watson terminal to better blend into town architecture.The gondola is one part of myriad improvements Vail Resorts, owner of the Breckenridge Ski Resort, wants to make to their base area on Peak 9. The gondola was proposed to move people rapidly onto the mountain and relieve vehicle congestion on Ski Hill Road.According to lift director Jon Mauch, to cut costs, ski resort officials have decided to utilize eight-passenger cabins rather than the originally planned-for 12-person cabins. They also opted to have open terminals and build them at grade instead of offering second-story skier loading.Currently, the ski resort is working on the gondola and the skiway. They hope to begin construction on infrastructure for development at the base of the mountain soon.That work will include a grand lodge for short-term guests, skier services, restaurants and other commercial uses on Peak 8. Peak 7 will comprise inn-like townhome units. A planned “skyway-skiway” will allow skiers to ski from the Four O’Clock ski run on Peak 8, through the forest, over a bridge near Hunt Placer Inn to the in-town parking lots.Ski resort chief operations officer Roger McCarthy and then-town manager Sam Mamula met a year-and-a-half ago and hammered out a development agreement addressing the overall plan for the improvements. The town council embraced the idea, likely saving town staff and elected officials years of negotiations.Under the terms of that agreement, the ski area agreed to allow some density to expire in exchange for transferring other allowed density from its in-town parking lots to the ski area bases and the Village at Breckenridge. It also reduced the amount of commercial density by almost half to appease merchants in town who feared the ski resort was creating two mini-villages with businesses that would compete with town stores.Ski area officials also agreed to deed 56 acres of open space to the town; eliminate most parking from the ski area bases; construct the gondola; donate land for the newly constructed transit center in town; contribute $200,000 toward daycare facilities – they donated that to the construction of Little Red Schoolhouse’s new building in French Gulch – build the skiway; and conduct numerous mitigation efforts to protect wetlands in the area. The planning commission and town council approved that master plan in May 2003. Master plans are the documents that guide a project’s overall development concept.The town and ski resort plan to share the cost of the gondola, but that agreement has yet to be crafted. The funding mechanism most likely to be used is a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF. This involves delineating a tax district on Peaks 7 and 8 – to include only Vail Resorts-owned properties. Those properties will be taxed to help pay for $6.7 million of the $20 million needed to build the gondola and a ski-back from Peak 8 into town. Funds generated after the gondola and ski-back are built, will go toward other parking and transportation needs.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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