Intrawest still waiting for feedback from Summit County commissioners
BRECKENRIDGE – As expected, the Summit Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) did not discuss proposed development at Copper Mountain that could double the size of the resort when it met with Intrawest Corp. officials at Monday’s work session.While Intrawest regional vice president Joe Whitehouse had hoped to come away from the 45-minute meeting with a list of commissioners’ concerns over his company’s plan to build out the resort, that information will be delivered later, once each commissioner makes a list and submits it to the planning department. The planning staff will then send the information to the ski company, it was decided during Monday’s meeting.The meeting is the first after a May 10 public hearing where Intrawest thought it might get its Copper Mountain planned unit development (PUD) modification approved after nearly three years of review. Instead, the commissioners said 1,155 units of proposed density were too much.Whitehouse has increasingly expressed frustration over the development process for Copper’s PUD modification. Monday’s work session was set to establish guidelines for future meetings.The PUD proposal is a 15- to 20-year plan that aims to add the new density on top of 500 units that are currently approved but unbuilt.It also incorporates two surface gondolas, 150,000 square feet of commercial space and public amenities such as parks, trails and land for a new fire station. Intrawest has offered $600,000 cash for the new Community Care Clinic and the proposed Swan Mountain recreation path.The ski company contends the extra density is needed to create critical mass at the resort to sustain a commercial community.Besides the list of commissioners’ concerns, which will be forwarded to Whitehouse via e-mail, the two parties are expected to discuss the PUD in detail on July 12 in an “interactive” work session, which is a new concept for the county designed to be a bit more structured than a traditional work session but not as structured as a public hearing.
The Summit Daily News has requested a copy of the commissioners’ concerns when they are available. The July 12 work session is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge.The issue of densityThe main issue with Copper’s PUD modification has been density. While Commissioner Bill Wallace indicated in May that he might approve half the number of units requested by the ski company, Gary Lindstrom and Tom Long have not given any indication of the amount of additional density, if any, they would approve.Elizabeth Black, manager of the Copper Mountain Metropolitan District, said Monday she thought the process broke down when density was not addressed during the project’s review at the planning commission level.”The issue of density did not have a lot of quantifiable discussion during the Ten Mile Planning Commission process,” Black said.When Copper’s PUD modification first came before the Ten Mile Planning Commission in early 2001, a process for transferring development rights, or TDRs, was just being developed in the Breckenridge area. Wallace said May 10 that in the seven years he has served on the BOCC, it never approved an increase in density except for affordable housing and in instances where TDRs were purchased.
Long has also discussed the option of transferring density in public hearings. But ski company officials have not warmed to the idea.TDRs would allow the company to remove density from an unidentified backcountry location in the county and apply it to Copper’s village. The challenge is that the company would have to purchase the TDRs.It is unclear what Copper’s TDRs might cost, but one TDR in the Upper Blue Basin costs $34,000.Summit County planning staff has repeatedly addressed the subject of Intrawest possibly purchasing TDRs, but the company has offered an array of public benefits instead.Whitehouse said in a May interview that economic realities do not allow the purchase of TDRs in addition to the proposed public benefits package, which is estimated to be worth more than $6.5 million.Intrawest is not obligated by the county code or master plan to work with TDRs. TDRs a ‘concern’ for BOCC?Intrawest’s development plan stands to change the character of Copper but also could affect the entire county with added lodging and commercial competition.
In May, Breckenridge residents, including the town’s former mayor, voiced concern over the possible precedent of adding density at Copper.Former Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula was the mayor when Vail Resorts went through the planning process for a base area development at Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peaks 7 and 8. Mamula and the town council convinced Vail Resorts to lower its density request to below the maximum allowed by zoning.”The issue is that if somehow the commissioners support the PUD even at its current level,” Mamula said in an interview last month, “what do we think Vail (Resorts) is going to ask for in Keystone’s future development?”It remains to be seen whether the commissioners place TDRs on the list of concerns requested by Whitehouse Monday. Summit County is quickly reaching buildout, according to an analysis by the county planning department. Buildout is achieved when all of the land zoned for it has been developed.If the current growth rate continues, Summit County is projected to reach buildout in less than 10 years. Planners project that even under a slower growth scenario, the county is likely to reach buildout within the next 20 years.Frisco and the Ten Mile Basin, which includes Copper Mountain, is reaching capacity at the fastest rate with 79.2 percent of land already developed.Planners indicate that as the county’s vacant land disappears, complicated development applications like the Copper PUD modification will be scrutinized more closely. They also project increased use of intricate programs like TDRs.Kim Marquis can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249 or email@example.com.
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