‘Phantom density’ a concern for Breck council
BRECKENRIDGE – Even though Intrawest’s proposal for a major base area expansion at Copper Mountain hasn’t had a formal public hearing, the Breckenridge Town Council weighed in on the plan this week. Several council members, including Eric Mamula, expressed concern about the potential addition of “new, out-of-thin-air density” at the resort.Intrawest recently submitted for county approval a plan that would add 613 “equivalent units” of residential and commercial density to the 2,100 allotted under existing zoning. Currently, about 1,400 of those equivalent units are built at Copper, so the new plan would nearly double the amount of development that exists at the resort’s base. A work session with the county commissioners is set for May 11, in advance of the formal planning commission review process.Resort officials have said they need the additional residential and commercial density to create a critical mass of sustainable economic activity at Copper.Along with a public benefits package, Intrawest has presented several density transfer options as part of its proposal. But Breckenridge planner Mark Truckey said there’s a “reasonable suspicion that (at least part of it) is phantom density from the town of Silverthorne.”Silverthorne planner Mark Leidal confirmed that the town has heard from Intrawest about a possible transfer of development rights, specifically with regard to the Clark Ranch property, currently zoned for 700 units of density plus a 350-unit hotel. A pending development proposal for that property envisions about 240 units, Leidal said.”From the town’s standpoint, we’re listening,” Leidal said. “But it’s very early in our process.”If the town approves a 240-unit development on the Clark Ranch, the remaining zoned density could linger as “phantom density” unless it is deliberately extinguished with the agreement of the property owners.”We welcome their comments. Right now is the time for people to come forward,” said Intrawest public affairs expert Laura Goode. “It’s the appropriate time as we go toward a work session with the county commissioners. And we would love to have a fair and equitable opportunity to present our plan to the Breckenridge Town Council and to answer their questions.”According to Goode, it’s important to note that the county’s comprehensive plan doesn’t specifically address phantom density or the quality of density, but simply calls for maintaining the current level of density in the county. Goode also directed attention to comprehensive plan language that community benefits are “a provision in lieu of new density.” “Although we welcome their comments and suggestions, we feel that approval of the PUD amendment should be based on what’s best for Copper Mountain and Summit County as a whole. We think that critical services such as affordable health care contribute to that end,” Goode said, referring to the public benefits part of the development package that could include a donation of up to $2 million dollars to a community care clinic.At issue for the Breckenridge Town Council is Summit County’s intent to make sure that any significant upzonings, or density increases, include a density transfer component that meaningfully extinguishes density somewhere else. That’s the only way the county can live up to its goal of capping development at currently zoned levels (with exceptions for affordable housing), Mamula said.Truckey said the town council wants to be sure there is equity among the various planning basins when it comes to development, a sentiment echoed by town manager Tim Gagen, who said the big players on the development scene should be treated the same.”There needs to be uniformity across the county,” Gagen said, explaining that Vail Resorts has played by the rules in terms of living with the county and town’s joint Upper Blue density cap. Intrawest should play by the same set of rules, he said.A transfer of development rights (TDR) program in the Upper Blue has been successful in eliminating development potential in the backcountry, but a big challenge for Intrawest is the lack of a countywide TDR plan that specifically addresses transfers between planning basins. Breckenridge also made formal comments during the county review of Intrawest’s previous application for additional base area density, a plan that was ultimately rejected by the Board of County Commissioners, in part because of density issues. Breckenridge caught some flak for the timing of its comments on the previous Copper plan, but town officials said they commented as soon as they could during the process. That’s why the council discussed the issue at this week’s work session, said Mamula.”We made a statement at the time about our concerns with TDRs. Those concerns remain. I think we should toe the line … TDRs should work they way they do up here,” Mamula said.”The town is interested in what’s happening at the other major resorts,” Truckey said. “If there is a major proposal at Keystone, the town would be interested. We’d want to continue to be apprised. They (council) want to be actively involved,” he said.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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