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Early Battle Mountain resort plan unveiled

CLIFF THOMPSONeagle county correspondent

MINTURN – What’s been talked about since January became semi-official Thursday when the developer of a private ski resort and golf course on Battle Mountain made official his intent to become a part of Minturn. It’s the first step in what is expected to evolve into a formal annexation request from the developer of the proposed 1,700-unit, 5,300-acre Battle Mountain golf and ski community that would stretch from Minturn to Red Cliff.Florida-based Ginn Companies purchased the land in December for $32.5 million from the owners of the defunct New Jersey Zinc Mine. The land runs from the top of Battle Mountain to the Tigiwon Road/Bolts Lake area and includes the area covered by the consolidated tailings pile from the Eagle Mine. The development is valued by the developer at better than $1 billion.In a letter of intent, the Ginn Companies propose a mixture of single-family and multi-family homes and community-support buildings covering 2,281 acres of Battle Mountain and around Bolts Lakes. Approximately 3,300 acres would remain “open space” and be used for skiing and other recreational activities. Billion-dollar mismatch? The town was presented with a development map showing the pieces of land where single-family, multi-family and other buildings would be built, but it does not indicate exactly where the private ski runs would be constructed. One portion of the development not on the map was employee housing. In public meetings, developer Bobby Ginn has said the final phase of the development would include up to 300 employee units at Gilman, a mountainside ghost town that was once home to miners. It’s expected last week’s letter of intent will be followed by a formal request for annexation that could take 18 months to two years of town review to complete. The town and Ginn will negotiate what he can build and what services the town will supply to the development. The town also will negotiate how to offset the extra expense of providing services like police and water treatment to the resort. Already, Ginn has given Minturn $50,000 to hire the extra legal, planning and engineering services needed to review his resort. Still, the town and developer are a study in mismatches – Minturn’s annual budget is just $1.2 million; last year, Ginn’s companies had $1.2 billion in sales.Drinking waterThe cornerstone of the agreement will be where the resort gets its water, developers and town officials agree. And water is something Minturn can get if the town, perhaps with help from Ginn, builds a new sewer plant upstream of Dowd Junction. Minturn pipes its sewer water to the Avon sewer treatment plant, which means the town is lowering the water in stretches of the Eagle River. Building a sewer plant closer to town would lessen the impact. In 1998 the town wanted to sell some of its excess water to raise money, but a consortium consisting of Vail Resorts, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, fearing the water would be taken to the Front Range, successfully sued to prevent the sale. The town was left with approximately one-third of its water, but was also left with the option of building a sewer plant and regaining that water under the terms of an agreement struck after the suit. The Battle Mountain resort will need that water, Ginn said, and will help the town build a sewer plant. The town could then sell the water to the developer.Two weeks ago the town, Ginn and representatives of Eagle River Water and Sanitation met to discuss sharing the expense of building a new sewer plant, which could cost as much as $20 million.Minturn’s town council has discussed buying private land just north of town that could hold a sewer plant. One of the only parcels capable of holding a plant is owned by Vail Resorts and lies just east of the railroad tracks.Cost of livingMinturn residents are split over the change the proposed development is expected to bring to the town, which has been largely bypassed by the development that has sprung up in Vail, Avon, Beaver Creek and Edwards.Longtime residents like Dolores Gonzales, 75, said they fear the new luxury development will send the cost of living skyrocketing. “Taxes will go sky-high,” she said. “I have no idea as to where I’ll go from here.”Others like lifelong resident Mark Tatham, 38, think the town, which was hurt by the departure of the railroad and shutdown of the mine in 1984, needs the economic stimulus the new development could provide.”Once Gilman died we lost a lot of business,” he said. “It’ll be good to see that come back. We’ve got to keep town going.”Early fears that the ski runs would be connected to Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, creating an extended Vail Mountain, were dismissed by Ginn, who said there are no plans to connect. A mile-wide strip of U.S. Forest Service land, designated as habitat for the threatened Canada lynx, separates Battle Mountain from Blue Sky Basin.


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