County kills Copper plan
BRECKENRIDGE – Summit County Commissioners Bill Wallace and Tom Long shot down Intrawest’s plan to double the size of Copper Mountain Monday when they voted to deny the ski company’s long-term development plan.Intrawest sought land-use approval of 1,155 additional residential units at Copper, on top of 500 units that remain unbuilt in its current planned unit development (PUD).The plan also would have added 150,000 square feet of commercial space. Intrawest’s application for what is called its Comprehensive Development Strategy wandered through the county planning process for three years before crash diving into the 2-0 vote.New County Commissioner Bob French, on the job for only a few hours, abstained from the decision.”We were very surprised at the decision made today,” said Intrawest spokesman Matt Sugar. “We were looking forward to the opportunity to bring the new commissioner up to speed and felt it would not be fair to the process for three years of information to be accounted for in four hours.” In the last few months, Intrawest’s development proposal morphed into a political hot button as the proposal finally reached the county commissioners and awareness grew that it would double the size of the resort.While the county was not requiring the ski company to transfer development rights (TDRs) into the valley to obtain the extra density, the suggestion that it participate in a TDR program came from planning staff and area residents.The stance is supported by the countywide comprehensive master plan, which Intrawest was not subject to because it launched the planning process before the master plan was approved in November 2003. However, if Intrawest comes back to the table with a new development application, the newest master plan will apply. While advisory, it does recommend the use of TDRs and further supports no net increase in Summit County’s density.It is unclear whether Intrawest will make another go at continued development at Copper. While it still has 500 units to develop in its current PUD, the resort company had its sights on a broader development goal. The company maintains it needs the added density to sustain a commercial economy at the resort.”At this point in the process we are definitely going to talk amongst ourselves; given that it was a surprise we’ll have to discuss and figure out what to do from this point,” Sugar said. “We’re not going to make a hasty decision,” he replied when asked if the company would pull out of Copper all together. “We’re going to be thoughtful and carefully consider what to do.”What happened?Intrawest regional vice president Joe Whitehouse had planned Monday to set a timeline for future meetings on the development proposal.
He said he wanted to bring French up to speed on the proposal, then meet in an open work session on a few minor issues, then tackle the larger density issue at a September meeting.Wallace and Long, who, with former commissioner Gary Lindstrom, had submitted a list of concerns over the PUD application in June, had other expectations. “By their own statement, they told us they would give us an answer to those questions and then they turn around and say, ‘Geez, you’ve got a new guy up there (French), so we don’t have to respond,'” Long said.”That’s pretty frustrating. We had real concerns, we highlighted those and there seemed to be reluctance to react to any of our concerns. At some point in time, you have to draw the line,” he added.With a primary election less than a month away, Wallace said it was time for the community to know how he stood on the issue.”The residents of Summit County have a right to know how I feel about this density issue,” he said. “(Intrawest) wanted the first meat-and-potatoes meeting (on density) Sept. 10. What if I lose Aug. 10?”Wallace is facing Barb Crandall in the Aug. 10 Democratic primary to run for the Summit County District 2 commission seat in the fall.”Back in November I had concerns about density (proposed in the PUD); I still have those same concerns,” Wallace said. “I was hoping to get some indication whether those folks in Vancouver (Intrawest’s headquarters) are willing to address those concerns. My continuance as county commissioner after January may be in question. The citizens of Summit County deserve a decision on my part prior to the upcoming election.”French, who was appointed to fill Lindstrom’s seat when Lindstrom accepted an appointment to the state House of Representatives, was sworn in Monday morning.He said at the public hearing six hours later that he hadn’t had an opportunity to review the record and promised to make a significant effort to do so. Sugar said the company did not respond to the commissioners’ concerns, but instead wanted to make a sincere effort to review the proposal with French.”When it ultimately comes down to one-third of the group that doesn’t have the historical context to this PUD, that is significant to the process,” Sugar said.Was Intrawest stalling?But some citizens said the company was stalling.”I’ve got a sneaking feeling Commissioner French is well up to speed,” said one Copper homeowner. “This is, again, a delaying tactic on Intrawest’s part … I have a right to be upset. This is the seventh time I’ve come out from Maryland and the fourth time I’ve seen them come out with a superfluous reason to (delay). I’d like to see the board have some backbone and tell these gentlemen what you want.”
Copper resident Gary Bell said the process was hard on homeowners because many are second homeowners who do not live in the area full time. “The volume of material to read, the volume of density, the volume of problems was overwhelming,” he said. “(During planning commission meetings) it was hammered and hammered until 12 o’clock at night from 5:30 p.m. It made people drop out of the process.”June Simpson, president of The Lodge at Copper Homeowners Association, which contested the route of the proposed Union Creek gondola passing 30 feet from the building if constructed, said she traveled more than 1,200 miles to attend the meeting. “We’re really exhausted with this, but we will not stop,” she said.Density and the proposed gondola location were two of several issues outlined by the commissioners and public during meetings that began with the Ten Mile Planning Commission in 2001. After 10 meetings, the planning commission recommended approving Copper’s plan, but critics of the process say density was never adequately addressed. Wallace said he wanted to discuss density in the first public worksession, which was originally to occur Monday.”Even before the Countywide Master Plan was adopted, we’ve been talking about the beauty of no net increase in density,” he said. “Why the Ten Mile Planning Commission didn’t understand that, I don’t know.”Density and Summit County’s futureWallace, who has sat on the board eight years, said he learned that density awarded by one set of commissioners “plagues the hell out of county commissioners” down the line. “I refuse to do that to county commissioners 15 to 20 years from now,” he said. “If you can’t learn from the past, there’s a real error there.”Wallace said he supports TDRs, or, in the case of Intrawest’s application, would have supported some density increase in exchange for public benefits. But Wallace was not impressed with the package offered by the ski company in May. Estimated to be worth $6.5 million, Wallace said some items on the list were not community benefits but company obligations, such as rebuilding the chapel and fire station. Also included in the benefits package was land for a performing arts center (estimated to cost $30 million), $600,000 in cash toward the Community Care Clinic and Swan Mountain recreation path (which are estimated to cost $40 million and $11 million, respectively) and open space and parks at Copper. “They talk about wanting people to come to Copper Mountain, then talk about a performing arts center being a community benefit,” Wallace said. “Hell, they shouldn’t be only providing the land, they should be building the building if they really want people to come to Copper.”Wallace said it’s time for a sustained monetary benefit to the county’s general fund from the area’s largest developers. He proposed it be used for the Community Care Clinic, affordable housing, child care and transportation.
Long also did not see some items offered by the ski company as a community benefit. “Some of the things they were holding out as public benefits were things the resort has to have, not public benefits,” he said.”I don’t think this PUD does a heck of a lot to minimize the impact,” Long said during the public hearing. “The bulk and mass will dramatically effect Copper Mountain. I don’t think this PUD is in line with the Countywide Master Plan or (Copper Mountain) subbasin plan.”Intrawest originally proposed more density than 1,155 units, but before the March public hearing, reduced the number by 10 percent. It later proposed to reduce bulk and mass further by limiting the size of the units, but held steady at the 1,155 figure.Long said in an interview after Monday’s meeting the ski company did not address density or other issues adequately. He said he voted to deny the proposal to avoid “prolonging the inevitable.”Community reactionLongtime Copper homeowner and businessman Tom Malmgren said he was surprised but not disappointed at the decision. “It’s a shame we went through this process and, in my opinion, the developer didn’t listen intently to the feedback,” he said. “(Intrawest) certainly had signals coming back in the last few months.”In looking to the future of Copper Mountain, Malmgren expected Intrawest to step back and re-examine its goals. “I personally don’t think the plan submitted was the best it could be,” he said. “Intrawest has done a lot of wonderful things at Copper since it arrived on scene; many things that needed to be done. But what it submitted far exceeded what our little village can sustain.”Copper Mountain Metropolitan District manager Elizabeth Black said she thought Intrawest would have been prepared to discuss the commissioners’ list of concerns Monday, despite the change in board members. “Frankly, we can’t discount Gary Lindstrom’s comments just because he isn’t here today,” she said. Black supported the commissioners’ decision to deny the application, calling it “good government.”Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at email@example.com.
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