Developers want to start building roads for embattled ski area village
DURANGO” The Texas-based developer of a ski village at Wolf Creek has asked a judge for permission to build a road connecting its project to the Wolf Creek ski area despite activists’ objections that the U.S. Forest Service didn’t adequately assess the road’s environmental impact.
Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, developers of the Village at Wolf Creek, planned at the bottom of the Wolf Creek ski area in southwest Colorado, filed briefs Monday asking U.S. District Judge John Kane to allow it to extend a road to their private land.
Work has been on hold since last year when Kane approved a preliminary injunction sought by two environmental groups suing to stop the development.
Most of the restrictions in the injunction expired June 15. Kane is considering a federal magistrate’s recommendation that the injunction be extended until the case is heard in court.
Leavell-McCombs insists that any environmental damage from the road can be fully restored.
The Durango-based Colorado Wild and the Alamosa-based San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council are suing the U.S. Forest Service, which approved construction of two roads the developer needs for access across national forest land.
The groups claim the Forest Service didn’t adequately analyze the project’s potential impact when it approved construction of a road for primary access to the village from U.S. 160 and an extension of a road from the ski area’s parking lots.
Environmentalists also say e-mails and other documents show Bob Honts, president of the company developing the project, and a consultant, Virginia-based Tetra Tech Inc., pressured Forest Service staffers to favor the developer.
The developer and consultant dispute those claims.
Another lawsuit over the project is moving forward.
The Colorado Appeals Court has scheduled oral arguments in the developers’ appeal of state District Judge John Kuenhold’s decision voiding Mineral County’s approval of the plans.
A three-judge panel will rule after the Aug. 21 hearing. In that case, Colorado Wild and Wolf Creek Ski Area jointly sued the developers and the county, saying the plans were improperly approved.
The land at the base of the ski area is owned by Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs.
The project could eventually include 222,100 square feet of commercial space and enough housing for up to 10,500 people.
McCombs, co-founder of media giant Clear Channel Communications, and the Pitcher family, who run the Wolf Creek ski area in the Rio Grande National Forest, were once partners in the development.
The Pitchers said they dropped out after objecting to its size and are suing to clarify their obligation to McCombs.
McCombs has said the Pitcher family owes him at least $20 million for expenses resulting from their reneging on an agreement to extend the ski area’s road to his property.
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