Copper community bucks up in wake of development denial
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Elizabeth Black is sharpening pencils and reaching for the checkbook in the wake of a denial of Intrawest’s long-term development plan at the resort.The manager of Copper Mountain’s Metropolitan District and her organization stood to receive $2.5 million worth of land on the east side of Highway 91 to build a new fire station if the ski company’s planned unit development (PUD) modification was approved. The application to nearly double the size of the resort was killed by the Summit Board of County Commissioners in July after three years of review.With the denial, Black lost the land for a new fire station. The current station on Copper Road is too small and is in desperate need of an update, she said.”I don’t believe we can go on for another year without a development plan of our own,” she said. “We’re at a critical point right now with the fire station.”Intrawest officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Despite the resort’s uncertain future, the local business community is hopeful, said Steve Bowman, director of the Copper Mountain Resort Chamber.Several new businesses will open up shop in the center village this ski season, proving the business community is not in the “doom and gloom” mode, Bowman said.”There seems to be a level of confidence in the community that Copper will continue to be an exciting place,” he said. “But in terms of the community planners, it is slowly becoming an element of we can’t wait for Intrawest to fix this; we need to repair it ourselves.”Intrawest represented a professional “sugar daddy” to longtime Copper locals who saw the resort deteriorate before their eyes under previous ownership. Once it purchased the resort, the ski company kick-started improvements on the mountain and resortwide with its $500 million Copper “Renaissance” plan approved in 1999.But Intrawest officials soon thought that plan needed tweaking and expanding, proposing to add about 1,400 new residential units and new commercial space, on top of 500 units already approved that could be built.Businesses and property owners were largely on-board with the improvement plan. Many of them spoke in favor of the PUD proposal at a May public hearing, when a decision was continued for the seventh time.
While Intrawest apparently licks its wounds, other community planners are ready to move forward – out of necessity under pressure from development that was already built by the ski company in the past few years. Since Intrawest purchased the resort in 1997, more than 500 new units were built in the center village, plus a dozen new commercial outlets. The pressure, along with increased day skier numbers, is being felt at the resort’s wastewater treatment plant, which surpassed capacity at least 10 days last ski season and at the fire station, which needs a new engine with accompanying bay plus four to six new employees.”We have no place to put them right now,” Black said.Since the PUD modification denial, ski company representatives said they would regroup and decide what to do next.Black said she felt confident the company is still committed to building out the village.”Initially after the PUD (denial) there was a lot of speculation about what now and what’s next,” she said. “Intrawest has articulated to me since then that it is still very committed to Copper and it’s still interested in seeing the vision of the village come to fruition.” Still, the fire station is too small. Black is hoping to get answers on the company’s development plans and timeline, if any, at a Sept. 13 retreat.
“The district is very used to operating under frugal resources, so it’s not like we’re panicked,” Black said. “It’s just that now we might have to operate independently because up until now, the resort and the district had a plan together.”The plan was for a new location with another bay, new office space and living quarters in the Wheeler Lakes neighborhood adjacent to the Alpine parking lot. A new plan may mean expanding and updating the current facility on Copper Road, across from the chapel.It is unclear whether Intrawest officials will attend the retreat. The ski company has not been represented at the last two metro district board meetings, although board members expressed a desire for their presence.”We need to know when we can start addressing our growth issues specifically related to our fire department,” Black said. “This recently denied PUD was conceived in 1999 to 2000, when we were happy to hold our plans to see what would happen with the PUD. Who thought back then it would go on for three years?”Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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