Mountain Town News: Big housing now on the rise in Telluride |

Mountain Town News: Big housing now on the rise in Telluride

Allen Best

TELLURIDE — Real estate development has returned to Telluride in full force, bringing with it questions about how the new and usually larger buildings should be integrated with the old.

“Clearly, building permits are way up from last year,” reports Greg Clifton, the town manager. “What is more remarkable than the number of permits, however, are the valuations. A lot of big-dollar items are being pursued for the first time since the recession. Big money is being spent on these projects.”

Clifton also points to concerns that residential housing is replacing commercial space and crowding out more affordable housing units.

But there’s also the issue of how new should be integrated with old. The town altogether exists as a National Historic Landmark District. In 2006, at the height of the last boom, the National Park Service warned that development in vacant lots and alterations or additions to historic buildings were eroding Telluride’s special historic charm.

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“Four times, five times the size of the neighboring structure, I think we’ve all come to expect.” But 10 times the size pushes the town’s guidelines.Chance Leoffchairman of Telluride’s Historic and Architectural Review Commission, on the size of a recent building proposal

Now comes a proposal for a three-story commercial and retail building between the ski area and downtown Telluride. The Daily Planet reports heartburn among historic preservationists at a recent gathering.

One concern is the size. At 8,704 square feet, the building would dwarf an adjacent 800-square-foot house. “Four times, five times the size of the neighboring structure, I think we’ve all come to expect,” said Chance Leoff, chairman of the Historic and Architectural Review Commission. But 10 times the size, he added, pushes the town’s guidelines.

John Lifton-Zoline, son-in-law of Joe Zoline, the developer who transformed Telluride from an unvarnished, fading old mining town into a modern mountain resort, argues that the preservationists don’t know their history. He cited historical maps from over a century ago that show a mix of warehouses and residences.

“What you have there, cheek by jowl, are quite large warehouses and quite small residences… It was a mix of big and small buildings, and I think that’s what we’re doing,” he says.



ASPEN — The trail on Smuggler Mountain, located on Aspen’s east side, is a popular one for Aspenites. It’s close and has a forgiving grade. No wonder so many people like to take their dogs there for a stroll.

But do they clean up after the dogs? Not so much, reports the Aspen Daily News. A sign has been posted at the base of the trail, reminding hikers that “There is no poop fairy.”

John Armstrong, senior open-space ranger, tells the Aspen Daily News that dogs are allowed off leash, which may be the source of the problem. He said the major problem comes from well-intended pet owners who pay too little attention.

“People who feel they are doing a great job need to do a better job. That’s the crux of it.”

Hundreds of pin flags have been planted along the trial to show where dog poop remains. In Telluride, he notes, the fine for first offense for those letting their dogs poop without cleaning up is $250 and five hours of community service.



TRUCKEE, Calif. – Go to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco or anywhere else in California in coming months and you’ll have to ask for a glass of water if that’s what you want. New state regulations require that water only be served on demand.

The Sierra Sun reports several other, more aggressive conservation strategies, and like the drinking water, many are of a symbolic nature. But water suppliers — if they haven’t already — can allow outdoor lawn watering no more than two days a week.

This is amid news that California’s water situation has become even more desperate. Electronic surveys in the Sierra Nevada show water content in the lingering snow at just 8 percent of the average over the last 65 years, when record-keeping began.

“It’s certainly sobering when you consider that the snowpack in a normal year provides about 30 percent of what California needs in the summer and fall,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources.



JACKSON, Wyo. — Twelve months after Jackson elected officials banned use of cell phones while driving, the town has spent $10,000 on newspapers ads and road signs to let people know of the restriction. A good number of warning tickets have also been dished out.

Still, when the Jackson Hole News&Guide lingered on a street corner recently, the reporter observed 16 violations of the law in just 30 minutes. On average, 18 citations have been given monthly by police since the law was adopted.

Former Mayor Mark Barron had pushed hard for the ban. He was not normally an advocate of getting too far ahead of the public. For example, he resisted efforts to ban grocery stores from distributing throw-away plastic shopping bags.

But he was persuaded by a 2006 University of Utah study that found drivers talking on cell phones, even if they are hands-free types, are as impaired as drunken drivers. As well, there was the case of the local high school student, highly accomplished and well regarded, who was killed by a phone-distracted driver.

On the other hand, a researcher from the University of Colorado Boulder last year found no evidence that a California ban on use of cellphones by drivers reduced traffic accidents.

Whatever the science, it’s the law in Jackson’s town limits — and police chief Todd Smith says that enforcing the law cannot be the total answer. “We need to have buy-in,” he says.



PARK CITY, Utah — The dust has settled in Park City after a winter of being a two-company ski town. There’s Deer Valley, of course, but also Vail Resorts, which now operates both the Canyons and Park City ski areas.

Local planning commissioners have approved an eight-passenger gondola to connect the two ski areas, giving Park City bragging right as home to the largest ski area in the United States.

In an editorial, The Park Record is almost effusive in its praise of Vail Resorts. It credits the company with efforts to “remain upbeat” during the “bitter legal dispute” that seemed to “darken every doorstep in town.” It also takes note of Vail’s promise to invest $50 million in the two ski areas, which will allow a wholehearted marketing campaign for the next ski area.

Vail also has walked its talk about trying to become part of the community, says the Record, with its award of $1.3 million in grants to local non-profit organizations.



BASALT, Colo. — Colorado now allows the growing and sale of cannabis, but that doesn’t mean everybody is just fine with it.

In Pitkin County, commissioners approved an outdoor-shredding area at a marijuana-growing operation near Basalt, downstream from Aspen, but some nearby residents complained that the grow operation has been malodorous. It’s stinky, like a skunk, some of them say.

“I noticed it this spring,” said Kent Schuler. “I thought it was a skunk or some kind of a decaying animal…. There is something to reconcile here.”

Mike Woods, chief operating officer for Silverpeak, the marijuana retailer that operates the grow operation, said that the technological answer has arrived from The Netherlands.

This being the Aspen area, they are using organic materials to neutralize the odor.

More darkly, a 22-year-old recent college graduate from Oklahoma was in Summit County when he put a gun to his head and ended it all. A Denver television station says the man had purchased $78 worth of marijuana with his cousin, a local resident. He consumed two peach tart THC-infused candies, then two more, and then finally a fifth, for a total of 50 mg of THC, the psychoactive agent in cannabis.

The cousin reported that the victim, Gregory Goodman, then became jittery and incoherent.

The mother of the victim told the same television station, CBS4, that her son had no signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. She blamed the consumption of THC for the suicide.

In pot shops in Denver, there was considerable scoffing about the alleged link between cannabis consumption and suicide.

However, the Summit Daily News notes a report from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center showing that the number of marijuana-related calls increased 74 percent in 2014, the first year of legalized sales for recreation in Colorado. Sales for medicinal purposes have existed for several years.



In the most recent epidemic of bark beetles, which began in about 1996, pine trees in the U.S. West have died on chunks of land that, if aggregated, would be as large as Montana.

Keep in mind that the majority of Montana is on the Great Plains, scarcely a tree in sight.

But what caused those trees to die? Bark beetles, of course, or more precisely the fungus spread by the beetles. The fungus cuts off transport of nutrients and water.

Drought weakens the trees, and many are old, making them more vulnerable. And we’ve had significantly warmer temperatures.

Now comes a new study that finds that milder winter temperatures can be at least partially blamed for some outbreaks but not all of them.

Aaron Weed, now an ecologist at the National Park Service, says those not-so-cold winters can explain beetle outbreaks in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, as well as the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon and northern Colorado.

“In these regions, winter temperatures during the 1980s were more likely than in recent years to drop below the lower lethal temperatures for mountain pine beetles,” say Weed and co-author Matt Ayres, a professor at Dartmouth.

But in coastal and southern regions, winters dating back to 1989 were never cold enough to cause substantial beetle mortality. Instead, the researchers point to other factors, such as warming summer temperatures that affect seasonal rhythms of beetle development and forestry practices that influenced density of forests and resulted in even-age stands.

Whatever the cause, the massive die-off of pine trees in the southern Sierra Nevada of California is provoking fear in the hearts of mountain residents, reports the Fresno Bee.

The fear is of a wildfire. But a study by University of Colorado scientists finds less of a link between beetle-killed forests and wildfire than is generally supposed.

Sarah Hart, author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, says that beetle-killed forests are no more at risk of burning than healthy forests.

“Forest fuels may get drier as a result of fuels being dead from insect infestations. But the fuels in live forests are dry enough to promote fire. It is weather conditions — warm and dry conditions — that make the difference,” Hart said.

The Denver Post noted that federal forests have linked beetles to increased fire hazards. A research ecologist, Matt Jolly, did not dispute Hart’s study but defended efforts to thin trees. He pointed to a tendency of beetle-killed trees to ignite quickly and burn at exceptionally high temperatures.

The disagreement is a long-standing one. Ecologists like Hart, the university researcher, say that spending big money to remove dead trees appears pointless.

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