Golf course at issue in Copper PUD
SUMMIT COUNTY – After nearly two years of meetings, Intrawest’s plan to build out Copper Mountain Resort by adding up to 1,200 new units of housing and lodging is finally nearing the end of public hearing review.
Some community members are now worried that a provision about a conservation easement over the 120 acres of the Copper Creek Golf Club might force additional discussion before the Ten Mile Planning Commission.
An easement already exists over the first 10 holes of the course, and up until last week, Intrawest was on line to protect the whole course. The easement would keep the course as it mostly is and prevent conversion to an executive-style course, as once was discussed, possibly making room for other development.
Last fall, Copper Mountain Resort Development (CMRD), the Intrawest development group spearheading the build-out modification to Copper’s planned unit development (PUD) approval, agreed to place a conservation easement on the entire course that would be held in perpetuity for open space and recreation values.
“This will, of course, need to be a key policy of the PUD and any future development agreement,” states a Sept. 12, staff report.
That agreement now seems in jeopardy, with CMRD looking to take the offer off the table.
“Now what they’re doing is trying to keep the status quo,” said Chris Hawkins, the Summit County Planning Department’s manager of current planning.
This has some board and staff members of the Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District more than worried.
“If the 120 acres are now erased in terms of their perpetual restriction as open space for the golf course, then all bets are off, and we need to sit down and talk about what will be the community benefits of this plan,” said Elizabeth Black, the district’s manager. “It put our guard up, and I don’t think a lot of people even realize yet what it means if the open space isn’t restricted.”
In PUDs, public benefits are part of the land-use approval to offset development and density.
Black said that previous discussions with the developers, indicated that the 120 acres were one of the key community benefits of the proposal.
“Whenever we talked to Intrawest about the community benefits, it kept saying the No. 1 community benefit is the 120 acres of private open space that is available for use, and again, since that’s withdrawn, that raises this general concern,” Black said. “That was the reason for the alarm, so far.”
The issue has caused some confusion among participants in the approval process, and CMRD chief Joe Whitehouse believes this may lie at the root of the problem.
“I think what’s confusing is the term “private open space,'” he said. “Private open space is our property.”
Still, he said he did not expect to develop the golf course any further.
“We certainly don’t have any plans in it now,” he said. “Our conceptual master plan does not encompass that. I think if there’s some confusion, we certainly need to dig into it and find out what the confusion is.”
Hawkins also cited a possible misunderstanding, saying this was not a revocation of the overall open space requirements in the area, but something the company had agreed to “above and beyond” the minimal requirement.
“I think there has been some confusion over this in regard to (whether) they are violating the Copper sub-basin plan, and they’re not,” Hawkins said.
Still, Black said that distinction was clear and that the 120 acres was key to the Metro District’s negotiations in either case.
“If this piece is not in there, and it represented a substantial part of the public benefits, then we need to say, “So where’s the substitute? What are you going to do instead?'” she said. “It’s definitely going to be addressed at the next meeting.”
CMRD plans to make the final draft of its proposed modification public on Aug. 7, with the planning commission slated for a final public hearing on Aug. 28.
“There does need to be a lot of big picture issues that occur at that meeting,” Hawkins said.
Based on the outcome, the PUD change could be presented for review by the Board of County Commissioners some time in October.
In the 1,200 units of new density, the build-out plan calls for a mix of hotel, condo, townhouse, single-family and affordable employee units. Two horizontal gondolas are proposed to reduce the resort’s reliance on buses to move skiers and visitors around the resort.
New commercial space also would be created as well as proposed high-tech performing arts center backed by non-Intrawest interests. New development would also help pay for a new fire station and wastewater treatment plant expansion.
Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or email@example.com.
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