Town buys 102-acre property
BRECKENRIDGE – After two years of negotiations, the town of Breckenridge purchased the McCain property Tuesday in what Town Manager Tim Gagen called one of the easiest condemnations the town has ever seen.
The parcel, owned by Alta McCain, comprises 102.7 acres at the northwest corner of County Road 3 and Highway 9. The town purchased it for $1.05 million.
The town has long sought to acquire the land but couldn’t because Alpine Rock, a local asphalt, mining and concrete company, has held a perpetual lease with McCain. By pursuing a “friendly condemnation,” the town was able to acquire the bulk of the land and negotiate other stipulations in a lease with Alpine Rock.
“It was just a matter of negotiations,” Gagen said. “We had to get all the deal points worked out.”
When land is officially condemned, it allows the new owner to look at all leases on the land with a fresh eye, Gagen said. Perpetual leases are prohibited by law, and other leases McCain held were verbal arrangements that are voided when land is condemned.
As part of the deal, Alpine Rock will trade with the town 25 acres it owned at the southeast corner of the parcel, where it has conducted extensive mining operations. In exchange, the town will give 25 acres at the north end of the property where Alpine Rock historically has based its operations.
The company will continue its mining operations at the southern, town-owned end of the parcel – activity it believes will last no longer than five years, Gagen said. Additionally, it will pay royalties to the town for the minerals it extracts there.
The new lease agreement gives the town the right to buy back Alpine Rock’s new parcel if town officials deem after 10 years “substantial changes in land uses” in the area make industrial or mining activity no longer compatible.
Alpine Rock owners also reserve the right to sell the parcel within 10 years, but the town gets the first right of refusal – meaning the town gets first dibs to buy it.
“We like having Alpine Rock there,” Gagen said. “They have value in providing products to the community. And the property is already disturbed. It’s not like they’re going in and ruining a pristine area.”
According to Gagen, officials at Alpine Rock have agreed to continue discussions with Silver Shekel neighbors to the east regarding noise and dust concerns. The town also has agreed to honor permits the rock company has with the county, to make a smoother transition to the town. The town now must annex the land into town boundaries.
Town officials also must determine if – and how – they will honor leases others hold there, many of which are based on verbal agreements with McCain. They include High Country Furniture and Gallery, two woodworking shops behind that and Summit Landscaping, which has a storage facility at the northeast end.
Alpine Rock will pay royalties to the town for the minerals it extracts from various areas. The amount it pays will vary depending on whether the minerals are extracted from the McCain property, from town-owned or controlled land, or other areas. Alpine Rock will pay the highest royalties for minerals extracted closest to its base operations – notably on the property it continues to mine that the town now owns – and lowest for minerals it extracts from other areas.
Town officials hope to use that money to restore the Blue River and its surrounding habitat, much of which isn’t visible above the ground.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week it has accepted a restoration proposal for the river, making the town eligible for a $5 million grant under the federal agency’s Restoration of Habitat Program.
The program concentrates its efforts on habitat restoration to encourage native wildlife to return to formerly disturbed areas. In light of that announcement, plans to restore the river by the McCain parcel might be easier.
The Army Corps will conduct a feasibility study for the habitat restoration project first. Later, the federal agency will pay 65 percent toward design, engineering and construction costs to restore the river’s habitat. The town will pay the remaining 35 percent in cash or in-kind services, Gagen said.
Gagen said he looks forward to habitat restoration work because other river projects the town has pursued upstream have resulted in idyllic settings but haven’t always attracted fish and other wildlife.
Town officials also hope to incorporate the town’s river restoration plan – created by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments – into the Army Corps’ habitat and Alpine Rocks’ land restoration efforts. They also hope to incorporate the Colorado Department of Transportation’s plans to relocate the bike path to the west end of the property at the same time.
Town officials also are working on a master plan for the area. Numerous ideas have been proposed by various nonprofits and citizens.
Among them are a reservoir for future municipal water and recreation, a vintage-car racetrack, a nonprofit center anchored by the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, open space or combinations of those amenities.
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