Keystone offers optional bus fee to homeowners
KEYSTONE ” Keystone homeowners who expected to be forced to pay a fee for public transportation in Keystone found out last week they could opt out of the service.
Called a tax or tariff in its original form, some homeowners were upset the resort planned to charge $150 per bedroom per year for the villagewide transportation service that was formerly free to many users.
The resort, which runs the bus system, will still charge the fee. It is sending contracts to homeowners who can choose to sign, write a check and use the service, or can opt out and drive to the ski area parking lot.
Ken Wiggins, a Keystone homeowner and member of the Keystone Citizens League transportation committee, said he would not pay for the service.
It would cost Wiggins, who lives with his wife on Saw Whiskers Circle in a three-bedroom home, $450 annually to ride the bus.
“My speculation is that not very many homeowners are going to sign up,” Wiggins said. Instead, his family will drive to “whichever resort we might decide to ski,” he said.
Wiggins said the committee tried to negotiate a lower fee with resort officials to no avail.
“The position they’ve taken is take it or leave it,” Wiggins said.
Village bus service costs the resort $1.8 million annually. Keystone pays for two-thirds of the cost and homeowners pay one-third, said resort spokeswoman Lisha Burnett.
Burnett said a substantial number of homeowners associations have already indicated intent to pay for bus service.
“Having the transportation services … only increases their home value and allows their rental guests to have services while they’re at the resort,” Burnett said. “From the perspective of people who have lived in their home in Keystone for a long time who haven’t had to pay for the service, I can understand why they’re concerned.”
To police the new system, the resort will post signs at the bus stops and in vehicles to let guests know the bus is for paying customers.
“We recognize that people who are not paying will be getting on the busses,” Burnett said. “We will make reasonable efforts to communicate that this is a service to paying customers.”
The ski company had originally operated its transportation system under a common carrier license through the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This month, it requested to change its status to contract carrier and is operating under a temporary license.
The company expects permanent contract carrier status in January, Burnett said.
The new status allows the company to operate on a pay-for-service basis.
The situation raised the hackles of homeowners in at least three Keystone properties. They are upset that for nearly 10 years, some homeowners were charged for transportation service while others were not.
In June, the PUC fined the ski company $12,000 for 60 violations during the first two months of the year for illegally charging for service, among other violations, according to the PUC.
The Northstar Condominium homeowners association is the most recent group to investigate legal action. It hired Denver attorney Ike Kaiser to provide a legal opinion on the situation.
Because the homeowners had not yet seen his opinion, Kaiser declined Thursday to comment on whether they should pursue damages but confirmed they are considering the action.
Northstar owners may join the Gateway Condominium association and the Snake River Valley homeowners association, both of which already asked the ski company to refund past bus fees.
The company does not intend to pay.
“Keystone Resort provided, during that time, a valuable service to the homeowners associations for an agreed-upon cost,” Burnett said.
“The fact that Keystone didn’t have the appropriate type of permit filed with the PUC doesn’t negate the fact that we did provide a valuable service in good faith for a negotiated fee.”
Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at email@example.com.
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