Copper buildout on BOCC agenda Monday
SUMMIT COUNTY – A proposal to possibly double the size of Copper Mountain Resort will be considered by the Summit County commissioners Monday.
Intrawest’s 15- to 20-year buildout plan proposes to increase residential density by more than 1,155 units beyond what is currently permitted. The ski company has said the density will provide funding for substantial public benefits included in the development package.
It also says the density is necessary to create critical mass at the resort to sustain a commercial community.
The Copper Mountain Planned Unit Development (PUD), which has been considered by commissioners in six previous public meetings, establishes land uses and density permitted at Copper.
It first went before the Ten Mile Planning Commission in 2001.
In it, Intrawest is looking for added residential units to include condos, single family homes, townhouses and hotel rooms, as well as 150,000 square feet of commercial space, a horizontal gondola and community assets such as a new chapel and fire station, an entertainment complex, an extensive trail system and a redeveloped golf course.
The main issue is the ski company’s request to increase residential density by 1,155 units over what is currently permitted. If approved, development could double the number of units in the resort.
Intrawest said in a March report to the county commissioners that attaining the in-fill development in the resort at the level requested is important to meet projected skier demand and for economic viability.
The report notes that Copper currently has 3,300 beds, compared to Keystone’s 8,000 and Breckenridge’s 25,000.
“Achieving business growth at Copper Mountain, as well as for the independent businesses within the Copper community, is dependent upon growing Copper’s bed base to a more competitive level,” the report states.
Intrawest had originally proposed more than 1,300 units but agreed at a March meeting to reduce the number by about 10 percent. Commissioners still voiced concern over density and asked for visual representations of the buildings’ bulk and mass, which are expected at Monday’s meeting.
Since March, the company has not reduced density further, but instead is proposing to limit the size of some units to 1,000 square feet instead of the 1,400 square feet that is currently allowed.
The company estimates the total decrease to be more than 500,000 square feet, but staff noted in a report to the commissioners prepared for the meeting that recent units built at Copper by the company average 874 square feet in size.
Intrawest regional vice president Joe Whitehouse said the net effect is to reduce the mass and scale of the proposed density.
Visual representations expected to be shown at Monday’s meeting, obtained by the Summit Daily News, show 29 percent reductions in building mass on several key parcels in the proposal.
At the March meeting, Commissioner Tom Long discussed the option of transferring density, also known as transferable development rights or TDRs, in the plan, but resort officials have not warmed up to the idea.
TDRs could allow the company to remove density out of an unidentified location in the county and apply it to Copper’s village. The challenge is that the company would have to purchase the TDRs, and the cost would reduce money available for the public benefits package.
It is unclear what Copper’s TDRs might cost, but TDR values in the Upper Blue Basin in Breckenridge are currently $34,000 for one TDR.
Whitehouse said in an interview that economic realities do not allow the purchase of TDRs in addition to the proposed public benefits package.
“So what would you rather have,” he asked, “TDRs or public benefits?” (See related story on page AX for more on public benefits.)
The staff report also notes that company officials said the public benefits package represents more than two years of community negotiations and that requiring TDRs at this point could unravel the entire proposal.
Will there be enough parking?
Another issue raised in March was parking. Both commissioners Long and Bill Wallace said the number of spaces proposed in the PUD would not meet future demands, although 400 spaces had been added from the prior meeting.
Although the county planning staff recommended in March that the resort provide 4,200 parking spaces, its report to commissioners indicates it is now comfortable with the company’s proposed 3,800 spaces because provisions were added to the PUD that require parking situations to be studied over time.
In addition, the company has agreed to provide overflow parking, and met on April 27 with officials in Frisco to offer $100,000 for improvements at the town’s West Main Street parking lot.
The problem with the Union Creek gondola
The planning staff’s report to the commissioners makes no mention of the proposal’s controversial Union Creek gondola, and according to transcripts of the March meeting, commissioners Long and Gary Lindstrom made no comment on it while Wallace said he changed his mind and would support its location, which was highly contested by owners in the lodge that sits next to its proposed path.
For all of the PUD’s components and issues, the Union Creek gondola, which would pass close to the Lodge at Copper, has been one of the most discussed and contentious.
Whitehouse said the company has met with the homeowners association several times, but declined to discuss the outcome of those meetings.
An April 21 letter from the homeowner association’s law firm, James K. Kreutz & Associates, reviews Wallace’s previous negative comments about the gondola location and confirms that ski company officials did meet with the homeowners and indicates alternate routes were drafted by the company.
According to the letter, the homeowners were told the alternate routes were found unacceptable by the U.S. Forest Service, but in meeting with the Forest Service, the homeowners have come to understand that the agency did not say “no” to the alternate routes.
“This causes one to suspect that such meetings and such proposed alternates were for the sole purpose of ‘delay and deception,'” the letter states.
The letter goes on to say Wallace’s change of mind on the gondola location occurred “under a blanket of snow,” and suggests that the majority opinion on the board was changed by Intrawest’s March offer to pay for “various pet projects” through the addition of $600,000 to its public benefits package.
The letter suggests it was a “payoff” and if the gondola location is approved, “if one has enough money, one can get a decision in their favor.”
Wallace said in a telephone interview Wednesday that his change of mind had nothing to do with the $600,000 offer. He declined to say what changed his mind on the gondola location, but said he would address the issue Monday.
In telephone interviews Thursday, both Long and Lindstrom said they had not made up their minds on the issue and declined to comment any further.
Other issues expected to be discussed at Monday’s PUD review, set for 1:30 p.m. at the Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge, include affordable housing, resort access and a comparison by staff of the PUD proposal with Keystone’s 1995 PUD.
Kim Marquis can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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