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Gunnison County may rein in wood-burners

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GUNNISON COUNTY – Gunnison County is revisiting the issue of air pollution from fireplaces in unincorporated areas.Like Vail, Aspen, and many towns in more developed areas, the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte require fireplaces and woodburning stoves that meet Environmental Protection Agency standards to minimize emissions. Gunnison County almost went the same route in 2003, but instead gave wood-burners the option of paying $1,000 in lieu of installing stoves that pollute less.But with two of the three commissioners on the board now new, the board will take a new look at it. “Air quality doesn’t have boundaries,” said Hap Channell, one of those new commissioners.Pitkin County caps home sizes at 15,000 square feetASPEN – County commissioners in Pitkin County, where Aspen and Snowmass are located, have capped the size of all new houses in unincorporated areas at 15,000 square feet.The cap has been discussed since Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the former ambassador from Saudi Arabia to the United States, built a 55,000-square-foot mansion in an Aspen suburb some years ago. Regulations imposed since then, reports The Aspen Times and The Denver Post, have made larger houses increasingly difficult and expensive. Still, one or two houses of that size or larger are built on average every year. While the official cap had been 5,750 square feet, builders could exceed that limit by purchasing transferable development rights originating on old mining claims in backcountry parts of Pitkin County.Who decides what house is too big? That’s the big question. Michael Owsley, a county commissioner, noted that 15,000 square feet is about the size of the county courthouse. The larger the house, the greater the impact upon the community infrastructure, he said.A contrary point of view was expressed by Ed Foran, president of the Aspen Board of Realtors, who questioned whether county commissioners “should be making philosophical decisions like that.” But, he said, there’s no question that some people can afford such big houses. “The demand is absolutely there,” he said.The Post reports that in nearby Eagle County, where Vail and Beaver Creek are located, the largest home sold last year had 10,500 square feet. One home in Aspen currently on the market for $35 million has 14,300 square feet.The Times noted that meetings at which the cap was considered were more heavily attended by people with a financial interest in larger homes being allowed. “It’s money,” said County Commissioner Dorothea Farris. “It’s greed.” Mick Ireland, another county commissioner, said that commissioners must “weigh the voice of people with a direct financial interest, with the people as a whole.”It’s been a long winter: recall efforts under way

GRANBY – It’s not even March, and tempers are getting short in Granby. A group of main street businessmen (no female reported) are out for the mayor’s head, with recall petitions now being circulated.At least at a distance, the mayor seems to be of good humor and above-average intellect. What’s the problem?Patrick Brower, publisher of the Sky-Hi News, theorizes that the business owners and managers feel they are producing the town’s paycheck, but are unable to vote in town elections – because they mostly live outside the town.”Some business people think the town simply isn’t in touch with the problems of downtown Granby businesses,” writes Brower. “I don’t think this is so, but that’s what they think.” Aspen’s Friedman takes aim at Jackson’s CheneyASPEN – You could call it the war of second-home owners. Thomas Friedman, a second-home owner in Aspen, is calling for the head of Dick Cheney, a second-home owner in Jackson Hole.Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times, has been taking aim at the U.S. energy policy that presumes an oil-based future. He argues that policy forces U.S. dependence on volatile foreign countries and denies the reality of climate change. He describes Cheney, the vice president, as the head-in-the-sand architect of that policy.Previously, Friedman has called on President George W. Bush to can Cheney. In a column last week about the dangers posed by Iran, Friedman was at it again.”If the Bush team continues to let Dick Cheney set its oil policy – one that will keep America dependent on crude oil – the postcold war democracy movement that was unleashed by the fall of the Berlin Wall will be either aborted, diluted, or reversed,” he wrote.Second-home study slays trio of myths in DurangoDURANGO – A common perception in Durango is that second homeowners are arriving in droves, building mansions, causing britches-busting growth.But the Durango Telegraph reports that a new study finds all three are myths. The reality is that only 29 percent of local property is owned by people with non-local mailing addresses, far less than in other Colorado mountain communities.

The study, called “The Social and Economic Effects of Second Homes in Southwest Colorado,” also finds that the double-nesters generally live in modest dwellings. “La Plata County has this idea about trophy homes,” explained Laura Lewis, an economic planning director for the regional council of governments. “But what we saw in the study was that non-locals’ homes actually tend to be condos and are not high in value. The trophy homes you see tend to be primary residences.”In fact, non-locals only own 17 percent of single-family homes, the study found. In contrast, they own 55 percent of the condominiums. The average square footage for locally owned properties is 1,943 square feet compared to 1,831 square feet for those owned by people with out-of-county mailing addresses.The final myth that the study slays is that Durango and La Plata County are growing at out-of-control rates. In fact, the county grew 3.1 percent in population during the 1990s, and since then has been growing at 1.4 percent annually – far more slowly than most resort areas of the West. Most planners figure that growth rates of 3 percent are easily within control.Whistler taking aim at overweight AmericansWHISTLER, B.C. – Is there money to be made in Canada from pudgy Americans? That’s part of the strategy of Tourism Whistler, a promotional group that aims to increase room nights by 10 percent in winter, 9 percent in summer.The new plan sees potential for gaining more visitors by appealing to gay people, family travelers, and golf and mountain biking tourists. But a report by Pique newsmagazine dwells on the blooming health and wellness sector. “People don’t want to die,” explained Scott Carrell, the largest independent equipment renter in Whistler. “They want to live longer … The boomers, they have this wave as they move through society and really I think we have to refresh our product and I think wellness is a big component of that.”Even conferences could be sold with a wellness component, suggested Carrell. “Certainly employers want their employees to be healthier so we could have a wellness program as part of their conference,” he told Pique.Moreover, 64 percent of people in the United States are officially classified as either overweight or obese. “So how big is that opportunity?” Carrell added.Deep Temerity continues to draw crowds at AspenASPEN – Who says bells and whistles don’t sell lift tickets? Aspen Highlands several years ago opened up its famous bowl, and skier days have been increasing ever since.A new chairlift, called Deep Temerity, was installed last summer, and this year numbers are even stronger yet. While The Aspen Skiing Co. is reporting a 5 percent increase in business at its four ski areas, company officials credit Highlands with being the largest single part of the story.

In the 1990s, Highlands constituted only 7 percent of the company’s business. Through January of this year, it was more than 13 percent. In addition to the bowl, various other modern lifts have been added at Highlands.Still, even if Highlands could comfortably increase its skier days from the 167,000 skier visits recorded last year to perhaps 200,000, it probably will never equal the record set in the go-go ’70s, when more than 300,000 skier days were recorded in at least two winters.Meanwhile, Highlands’ surging popularity means fewer skiers on Aspen Mountain, especially on powder days.Green Party candidate does well in Bow River Valley CANMORE, Alberta – Although Alberta generally is conservative, the Bow River Valley is a strong exception, as was evident in a recent election. A candidate of the Green Party, Sean Maw, captured 27 percent of the vote in Canmore, and only slightly less in Lake Louise and Banff. The winning candidate has a strong record of social conservatism, notes the Rocky Mountain Outlook.Feds likely to pay for most of new Sun Valley airportHAILEY, Idaho – The Federal Aviation Administration has tentatively approved $50 million for a new airport to service the Ketchum and Sun Valley resort area.The existing airport, at Hailey, is considered too small to safely handle new and larger jets. A new airport with an 8,500-foot runway is being planned to the south, outside of the mountains, on federal Bureau of Land Management property.Airport proponents say they can get another $31 million by selling the land used for the existing airport, much of it purchased with FAA money. As well, another $8 million in FAA grants are expected, with another $2.9 million in passenger facility charges tacked onto airline tickets. Another $5.5 million is projected from various other sources.Whistler getting pushy with puffers in lift linesWHISTLER, B.C. – Intrawest is cracking down on smoking on lift lines. Although the no-smoking rule is not new, the company this winter has added signs at the bottom and top of all lifts. As well, lift operators have the authority to ask smokers to cease and desist. Those who don’t will be met by ski patrollers, explains Pique.An even stronger policy exists regarding smoking of marijuana. Those caught will have skiing privileges revoked for a month.


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