It's being called the Great American Eclipse. The big one. The one that astronomy enthusiasts in the United States have been waiting to see for 38 years. It's been a long eclipse drought.
On Monday, the shadow of the moon will sweep across the 48 contiguous states, from coast to coast, putting millions of people within a short drive of one of nature's most breathtaking celestial events — a total eclipse of the sun.
Total eclipses of the sun are not rare. There's usually one somewhere on the Earth almost every year. The problem is that the area of visibility is exceedingly small — one-third of 1 percent of the Earth's surface — so you either have to be lucky enough that the eclipse happens close to where you live or you have to travel a great distance to put yourself in the right spot.
It is one of nature's most marvelous coincidences that the sun is 400 times larger than the moon, but it is also 400 times farther from Earth. Consequently, the sun and moon appear to us to be the same size in our sky. But, because the orbits of Earth and moon are ellipses rather than perfect circles, there are slight variations in the apparent sizes of the sun and moon over the course of the month and year.
Sometimes, the sun appears slightly larger than the moon, and sometimes, it appears slightly smaller than the moon. If the sun and moon cross paths at a time when the moon appears slightly larger than the sun, then a miraculous total eclipse occurs. Under the very best of circumstances, the moon can cover the sun for only 7 ½ minutes. Most of the time, it is much less than that.
If you were floating in the vacuum of space, then all you would have to do to see a total eclipse of the sun is to hold your thumb up to cover it. You could then view the sun's corona and stars at the same time against the blackness of space.
The same trick does not work from the surface of Earth because the atmosphere scatters the sunlight and creates a bright, blue sky. The sky itself is brighter than the faint corona and feeble starlight, so a thumb eclipse will not work. Only when the sunlight is blocked from above the atmosphere can the wonders of a total eclipse be observed. That's where the moon comes in handy.
The most recent total eclipse of the sun visible from the 48 contiguous states was way back on Feb. 26, 1979. That one was visible only from the northwestern tier of states and across central Canada.
On Monday, the moon's shadow will once again sweep across the United States, this time from sea to shining sea, casting parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina into midday darkness. The shadow path is very narrow — only 70 miles wide — so, unless you happen to be living within that path, you get the "close but no cigar" award.
I've chased, studied and photographed total solar eclipses from three continents over nearly five decades and spent a total of 31.4 minutes within the shadow of the moon. Total solar eclipses are hypnotic, if not addictive.
They are much more than mere astronomical phenomena — they are awesome and emotional cosmic events that touch something primal in each of us. This alignment of worlds reveals mysteries of the cosmos that are normally hidden from the human senses. It is my experience that total solar eclipses connect me viscerally to the cosmic forces at work in the universe — and I like it.
Assuming that you make the effort to plant yourself in that path of the moon's shadow, here is a description of some of the things you will want to watch for.
FIRST CONTACT: THE PARTIAL ECLIPSE BEGINS
This is the term used to describe the moment that the dark disk of the moon first takes a bite out of the edge of the sun. Shouts of "First contact — there it is." invariably rise up from the adrenalized crowd of eclipse watchers. For the next hour, the moon covers up more and more of the bright face of the sun during the partial phases of the eclipse.
• Warning — As long as any part of the bright photosphere of the sun is in view, it is unsafe to look at without a proper solar filter, so don't do it. Regular sunglasses are useless. Permanent eye damage can occur. The lens in your eye will focus that dazzling sunlight into a laser-like point on your retina and scorch it.
Purchase a pair of CE- and ISO-certified safe solar eclipse glasses online for a couple of bucks. Then, you can watch the progress of the eclipse safely with your glasses on. Throughout Summit County, the eclipse will never be total, so you'll need to wear those eclipse glasses for the entire event.
One cool way to watch the partial phases of the eclipse indirectly is to place a sheet of white poster board underneath a leafy tree where the sunlight filters through. The overlapping leaves in the tree create hundreds of little pinholes that project shimmering images of the eclipsed sun all across the ground. This is one of my favorite ways to watch an eclipse.
• Shadow bands and the approach of totality — If you are within the path of totality, then you get to see some very special things that are not visible from outside the path. In the fleeting moments before and after totality, sunlight from the vanishingly thin crescent of the sun peeking around the edge of the moon diffracts through the Earth's atmosphere and creates rapidly moving, flickering shadows across the ground.
I saw them best while watching the solar eclipse of June 30, 1973, from the deck of the MS Massalia, off the west coast of Africa. While frantically shooting photos at my telescope, I became aware of flickering shadows moving across my arms. Looking down at the wooden deck, I watched the shadow bands racing at an angle across the deck planks. They remind me of the ripples of sunlight dancing on the bottom of a swimming pool. A white piece of poster board on the ground in full sunlight makes a perfect backdrop for viewing the shadow bands.
• Baily's beads — As totality approaches, amazing things begin to happen rapidly, so try to keep your wits about you. One of these is the appearance of Baily's beads along the leading edge of the moon, named for Francis Baily, who first explained this phenomenon in 1836.
The moon is not a slick cue ball. On the contrary, there are towering mountains and deep crater valleys all along the edge of the moon. In the last few seconds before totality, the crescent of sunlight will be broken into a string of beads, where high mountain peaks break the crescent and allow the last rays of sunlight to stream through the deep valleys. From the centerline of the total eclipse, Baily's beads will be fleeting. The closer you are to the edge of the eclipse path, where the moon grazes the edge of the sun, the longer Baily's beads will remain in view.
• The diamond ring — One by one, Baily's beads will wink out as the moon continues its march across the face of the sun. When one final bead remains and darkness descends rapidly across the landscape, the last ray of sunlight creates a brilliant point of light, as if from a sparkling diamond. Pop off those eclipse glasses and watch one of nature's most breathtaking sights — the diamond ring effect. It is ever so delicate and fleeting and will last for only a split second. Try to be aware of the shouts of amazement and glee from those around you at the sight of the diamond ring. Chances are you, too, will be unable to contain your amazement quietly and will join into the chorus of cheers and howls.
SECOND CONTACT: TOTALITY AND THE SOLAR CORONA
When the leading edge of the moon reaches the opposite edge of the sun, the diamond ring disappears and totality begins with what is called second contact. If and only if you are in the path of totality, then is now safe and appropriate to remove all eclipse glasses and filters and stare at the sun. Believe me; you won't be able to stop yourself. Where once hung a glowing ball of life-giving light is now a jet-black orb, surrounded by an opalescent halo of fantastic arcs and streamers.
This is the sun's 10 million-degree outer atmosphere called the corona. My experience is that the loud shouts and cheers of the eclipse watchers around you will turn, at this point, into wordless sounds of disbelief at the sight before them. The corona is always there, surrounding the sun, but the blinding light of the photosphere renders it invisible to Earthlings — except during these precious moments of totality. Enjoy the view, because in mere seconds, the sun will return.
• Prominences — During totality, you might notice one or more hot-pink protrusions along the edge of the eclipsed sun. These are solar prominences, Earth-sized flames of hot hydrogen gas leaping off of the sun's photosphere. I have seen no other color in nature to compare with the fluorescent pink color of these prominences visible during a total eclipse of the sun.
The most spectacular prominences I've ever seen came during the total eclipse of July 11, 1991. I had taken my two young sons, Jason and Michael, to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to see their first total solar eclipse. During both the first and second diamond rings, there appeared gigantic prominences, one completely disconnected from the sun and the other in the shape of a colossal seahorse, 10 times as tall as the Earth. Both were visible to the naked eye.
There is no guarantee that there will be any prominences visible at the time of the eclipse, but keep your eyes peeled for them, all the same.
• Stars and planets at midday — It will be hard, ever so hard, to take your eyes off of that totally eclipsed sun and the solar corona, but take a few of those priceless seconds to do so, because darkness will have fallen over the Earth at midday. This means that bright stars and planets will come into view.
Brightest of all will be the planet Venus, about two full hand spans at arm's length to the upper right of the eclipsed sun, near the 2 o'clock position.
The sky's brightest star, Sirius, will be twinkling about four full hand spans to the lower right of the sun, near the 4 o'clock position.
Look for planet Mars about one clenched fist at arm's length above the sun at the one o'clock position.
Bright planet Jupiter will appear above the eastern horizon, nearly four full hand spans to the lower left of the sun at the 7 o'clock position.
Most challenging of all will be the bright star, Regulus, Leo the Lion's brightest star. Regulus will be shining right through the solar corona only one degree, that's about two moon diameters, from the edge of the sun at about the 8 o'clock position. I've never seen a star shining through the corona so close to the sun, so I am particularly excited about this opportunity.
• Animal behavior and other happenings — Total eclipses are not only for the eyes. Open your ears and listen for sounds that are normally heard only at night — frogs and crickets chirping, mosquitoes humming, night birds singing and winging their way to their nests.
During the total eclipse of March 7, 1970, I was set up observing in the Okeefenokee Swamp Park in southeast Georgia, when night-feeding alligators crawled up around me and my compadres, giving us quite a start. Animals and insects are confused by the sudden and unexpected onset of nightfall.
Also, watch for other dusk phenomena, such as streetlights coming on. During the total eclipse of July 10, 1972, from Prince Edward Island, Canada, a lighthouse right beside my observing spot flashed on unexpectedly. It might behoove you to make sure that your eclipse observing site is not under any streetlights — or lighthouses.
You will probably spy one or more high-flying airplanes, full of scientists and spectators, flying along and chasing the shadow of the moon across the Earth. This will help extend the duration of totality for those passengers, but at the expense of being in a moving vehicle, making observations challenging.
Once you've taken a moment to observe the things going on around you, return your gaze to that heavenly sight of the corona for a final view. The total eclipse is almost done.
THIRD CONTACT: THE END OF TOTALITY
Faster than you can sing George Harrison's song "Here Comes the Sun," the 2 minutes and 20 seconds of totality for this eclipse will be completed and the dark moon will withdraw from the sun. Daylight returns instantly at third contact. But, don't forget to watch for all of the same spectacular phenomena that accompanied the onset of totality, only in reverse: the diamond ring, Baily's beads and the shadow bands again.
At this point, put back on those safe solar eclipse glasses to watch the final partial phases of the eclipse. It ain't over till it's over — you have a whole hour of partial phases remaining before the eclipse ends at fourth contact. Chances are, the folks around you will start heading for their cars as soon as totality ends, but stick around and enjoy the final phases of the Great American Eclipse while reflecting on the spectacular things that you experienced.
After watching this total solar eclipse, you might be hooked and want to see another one. The next total solar eclipse across the continental United States happens on April 8, 2024, fewer than seven years from now. The moon's shadow will cut a swath from Texas to Maine and treat folks living in the path to 4 minutes and 28 seconds of totality — nearly twice the duration of this month's eclipse.
This ain't horseshoes, folks. Close doesn't count. If you want to see the mysterious shadow bands, the eerie darkness with stars shining at midday, Baily's beads and the diamond ring, the stunning solar corona and prominences, then do whatever it takes to put yourself in that path of totality. It's a short drive up to central Wyoming for the most stunning and breathtaking 2 1/2 minutes you've ever experienced.
If only life were like HGTV. Rooms would be transformed in 30 minutes. Debris would magically disappear. And all the work would be done by model-quality contractors. Reality can be much different – especially when it comes to installing hardwood floor.
If you're ready to update your flooring, here are some considerations to help you decide if DIY or hiring a pro is the way to go.
What type of floor do you want?
Laminate flooring, like Pergo, can be fairly easy to install on your own. These boards arrive pre-finished and install without nails or glue. Real wood is not only more expensive, but much more difficult to install. Your decision to hire a contractor might depend on how much you can afford to spend fixing mistakes (after the cost of materials).
Are you comfortable with power tools, or is your electric toothbrush a challenge?
True wood flooring that needs to be finished on-site requires more technical skill. If you decide to forgo a contractor, make sure you have enough knowledge of power tools to be safe during installation.
What is your time frame?
Life happens. A day job, unexpected visits from the in-laws or running out of materials can all add delays to a project. Are you okay living with an unfinished floor in the meantime? A good contractor can complete the job within a set timeline, so you can get to enjoying your updated home sooner.
When in doubt, call a pro, at least for an opinion and a quote. Your agent can also help you decide which home improvements are worth the investment and find reputable professionals to work with if you decide to go pro. One thing you can easily do yourself? Find a RE/MAX agent on www.realestate-breckenridge.net
It will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make any changes that will drastically improve the traffic flow on Interstate 70.
Colorado Transportation Commissioner Kathy Connell said commissioners are continuing to talk about such things as how to increase the number of days a new express lane can legally be used and how to address the bottleneck at Floyd Hill in Clear Creek County.
“We’re really in a think tank with a lot of issues,” Connell said. “It’s a tough nut to crack to get it where we need it. It really is a conundrum.”
Westbound traffic tends to become more troublesome on I-70 at Floyd Hill because of how the interstate makes a sharp turn at the bottom of a hill.
Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shalien Bhatt told the Denver Business Journal in May that ideas being pondered for the stretch of interstate included either stacking the stretch of road similar to a part of Glenwood Canyon or realigning the highway. Both options would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million to $500 million, Bhatt said.
Meanwhile, CDOT has been hosting a series of public meetings to collect residents’ thoughts on the future of I-70.
But projects are still likely years away.
I-70 improvements will likely become more important as the state’s population continues to grow.
A combined 2.1 million vehicles traveled on the I-70 mountain corridor in the winter and summer seasons last year, according to CDOT. But on peak days, travel has become a headache on some portions of the interstate.
According to CDOT data, it should take just 55 minutes to travel westbound from C-470 to Silverthorne. But when the road is clogged with travelers heading to the mountain for a weekend getaway, it takes about 2 hours and 48 minutes to make that same journey.
Running a farm or ranch is a lot of work. Running a 20,000-acre ranch is a labor of love. For Susan Nottingham, it's time to write a different chapter in her life.
Nottingham is the owner of a ranch in northwest Eagle County that bears the family name. Her father, Bill, put together the nearly 20,000-acre property after selling a ranch that stretched from what's now Avon to near the west end of Dowd Junction in the early 1980s.
After that sale, the family relocated to the area above Burns. The family bought a place and then added to it over the years until it became perhaps the biggest working ranch in the county.
The private property is surrounded mostly by U.S. Forest Service land, some of it bordering the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. The ranch has a number of federal grazing leases, which allow cattle to roam and graze during the summers.
The ranch is still a working agricultural property, with senior water rights, pivot sprinklers for the hay and, of course, a good number of cattle. Nottingham estimated the current number at about 3,000 head.
But change is coming. Nottingham recently decided to sell the ranch. It's currently listed at $100 million.
"It's a decision I've been struggling with for quite a while," Nottingham said. "It's always been a family endeavor. But I just turned 65 and don't have kids and there's nobody coming up behind me."
The decision was "something I needed to do while I'm still healthy," Nottingham said. "It's a decision I need to be in control of."
When Nottingham made the decision to sell, she called longtime friend Ed Swinford, a broker with Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate. Swinford helped broker the deal for the ranch on the valley floor in the early 1980s. He and fellow broker Brent Rimel are co-listing the property.
While the ranch is on the market, everyone involved is being patient. There's a pretty limited pool of individuals or groups in the market for $100 million ranches.
Still, Swinford said, he's been pleased with the response so far. One broker out of the area has asked for more information, and other ranch brokers have expressed some interest.
It's likely that the eventual buyer of the ranch doesn't live in the valley, which is why the sale announcement was picked up by the Wall Street Journal and ranching magazines. But, Swinford said, someone who lives in, or visits, the valley might be interested.
"I know there are people who come through here who can afford it or know people who can," Swinford said.
Still, the timing might be right to sell a very large ranch in reasonably close proximity to Vail and Beaver Creek.
"The timing is good in general," Swinford said. "The country's on a real solid track right now."
WORK TO BE DONE
Until that buyer — or group — shows up, the ranch will keep running.
"I'll work hard — that's all I know," she said. "We'll just keep it going the way it goes."
Nottingham's talk of hard work isn't idle, either.
"She puts in longer days than any of the men," Swinford said. "She never will tell them to do something she wouldn't do herself."
Putting in the work, from cutting and baling hay to helping a cow give birth to a balky calf, creates a connection with a place. That connection will be hard to give up.
Nottingham said she knows the ranch will be someone else's responsibility when it sells, and those new owners can do as they please.
Still, she said, "My preference is for someone to come in and love (the ranch) like I do."
Both she and Swinford expect the new owner will respect the ranch for what it is.
"I don't think anybody's going to spend that much money to destroy it," she said.
Swinford added that a buyer might want to build a new home on the property. But, he added, "A buyer will see the beauty of this place."
When the ranch does sell, Nottingham said she expects to keep busy — at something.
Nottingham's mother, Neva, is still alive and had to move to the lower elevation of Grand Junction a few years ago.
"It was a huge change for her," Nottingham said. "If she can do the change, maybe I can."
Nottingham isn't the type to count chickens before they hatch, and there's plenty of work in the here and now. But that day will come.
"I can't see myself sitting around doing nothing," she said. "I'll have a lot of money to hopefully do some good. That will take some time, but I hope I can make a difference in the world."
But that day isn't certain.
"In the meantime, I've got to get back to my shovel," she said.
Silverthorne came into existence 50 years ago, and town officials buried a time capsule on Saturday that's to be unearthed 50 years from now.
Inside the capsule, they put a snowboard, skis and other winter gear. There's also a VHS tape from the grand opening of the outlet mall in 1989, along with a VCR, in case whoever digs it up can't find a way to play the analog tape.
For more recent history, a DVD copy of the film "Mean Girls" made the cut, as did about 80 other items, all of which came as a result of community suggestions. One of the more interesting pieces in the capsule has to be a package of pot cookies, but each item is meant to represent an important piece of the town's last 50 years.
The steel capsule was welded by Turner Morris and buried at Rainbow Park, next to the tennis courts, as the town hosted a free concert in conjunction with its popular Sunset at the Summit Series. The capsule was sealed with a plaque and contains a letter from Mayor Bruce Butler, who couldn't help but note that the park at which the capsule was being buried was once a lagoon.
"I don't think 50 years ago anybody would have thought we'd be standing in, or near, the lagoon having a 50th birthday party so we've definitely come a long way," Butler said before it went underground. "We may be the new kids on the block as a municipality, but I just want to take a moment and remind people that this is all about going forward, but at the same time you got to remember where you came from."
Today, Silverthorne is widely considered the gateway to Western Colorado and a premiere retail destination of Summit County. However, the town that borrows its name from one of the most colorful characters of the county's past, Judge Marshall Silverthorn, started as a series of mining claims in the 1800s.
According to town history detailed in a 2015 community profile and reiterated by Butler on Saturday, Judge Silverthorn moved to Breckenridge in 1859 and bought land along a section of the Blue River in 1881. In April 1882, the judge patented the mining claim for what would become known as the "Silverthorn Placer."
The judge was sorely disappointed to find little gold there, but it was the first of a series of claims on land that would eventually become the town.
While Judge Silverthorn provided the name, minus the "e" at end, it would be another seven decades before the real impetus that gave birth to the town came to Summit County.
The event was the construction of Dillon Dam, which began in the 1950s, when the surrounding area largely served as a makeshift camp for the workers building the dam, completed on Dec. 17, 1963.
Silverthorne was incorporated as a town four years later in 1967. At the time, President Lyndon B. Johnson was ramping up the U.S. presence in Vietnam, gas was 33 cents a gallon and The Doors had just released their self-titled album.
Since then, the town has steadily grown decade after decade, both in geographic size and in population.
In fact, Summit County was believed to be the fastest growing county in the country from 1970 to 1980, with a 232 percent increase in its permanent-resident population, just as Silverthorne was transitioning from a convenient refueling stop along Interstate 70 to a well-balanced community that now has over 4,500 people.
The county's extreme growth slowed in the 1980s but didn't stop. It ramped up again in the 1990s with the population more than doubling.
Meanwhile, from the 1970s through the 1980s, Silverthorne remained on the move, adding 1,059 acres by annexing the Eagles Nest neighborhood, bringing in the outlet mall and adopting many of its zoning and administrative regulations.
After the turn of the century, Silverthorne made two more big moves, annexing a pair of major subdivisions in the Maryland Creek Ranch and Smith Ranch properties, both of which are still being developed today.
At the same time, Silverthorne has undertaken other significant development projects, including the opening of a $9 million performing arts center just this summer.
"We feel like we're the new kids on the block," said Blair McGary, the town's marketing and culture manager. "Silverthorne is 50 years old, which in municipal years is pretty young, and we're really excited not just about the foundation we've created in the last decade, but what the next 50 years are going to look like."
Referencing a modern vision for the town and applauding the community that brought it to where it is today, Bulter said he just hopes to be around for the next 50 years to see what happens.
Breckenridge put its horse-drawn carriage out to pasture on Tuesday.
Discussions regarding the hot-to-trot enterprise emerged at a July 11 town council meeting.
Councilman Mark Burke had mentioned he carriage drivers were "wasting so many parking spaces" on often-congested Main Street, and he asked town staff about striping lines to direct a more efficient use of the space.
They have considered it, they replied, but snow-covered lines would do little good during the busiest times of year. Mayor Eric Mamula floated the idea of marking curbs instead, which some thought might be worth a try. However, that wasn't the end of the mayor's bright ideas.
"I have one thing," he said. "I have heard that the horse and carriage is for sale. I don't know if this is something we can just buy and get rid of — let the horses go."
A well-timed pause suggested Mamula might be joking, at least about the last part, and a chuckle rolled over council chambers. But the mayor pressed forward.
"No, I'm not joking," he said. "You're all laughing, but I'm not joking. We can get rid of this thing. I'm sure somebody takes horses that are, you know — we donate the horses somewhere and burn the carriage."
Joking aside about the carriage, Mamula was serious — he didn't feel like the operation belonged on Main Street.
"And it's also recently, I've seen a whole lot of crap on the road," said Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron.
Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence asked town staff if they knew when the business's permit would expire and have to be renewed. They said they would have to look.
In a moment of clarity, Burke put things in context: "I think Eric's point is, do we want to be the ones putting people out of business or just end it nicely?"
"I'm good with ending it," Councilwoman Erin Gigliello sided after inquiring about the price. At $36,000, another council member called it "peanuts."
Bergeron remained firm: "I don't want to kill the horses."
"Put the carriage in Historic Park or something," Gigliello said.
"I'll sell you guys my business," Councilman Mike Dudick chimed in, "if you want to stop time shares."
"We'll get some information and come back to you," town manager Rick Holman finally told council members before they moved to adjourn the meeting.
In the coming weeks, town staff would negotiate a deal to buy the business, High Country Carriage LLC.
A month and two council meetings after Mamula openly suggested buying the horse-drawn carriage, an emergency town ordinance appeared on the council's agenda with language specifically killing any hopes someone might have of operating a pedal bus, pedicab or horse-drawn carriage in town.
At this time, there are no applications for permits, nor is anyone currently operating a permit, town staff told council before its members, all in attendance, voted unanimously in support of the measure. In the ordinance exists a provision to allow special permits for those activities, but only for one-time events. Passed as an emergency ordinance, the new law required only one vote and took effect immediately.
There were brief mentions of the town's purchase of the business at Tuesday's council meeting, but no details of the agreement were discussed and the new law passed with little fanfare.
Responding to a request for details of the sale, Holman said the town agreed to pay $25,000 for the rights to the business only.
Calls to High Country Carriage LLC on Friday were not returned by press time.
According to documents on file with the Colorado Secretary of State, Jon Maxwell of Breckenridge filed an articles of organization for High Country Carriage on Aug. 3, 2016. A website for the business is no longer operational.
At the very least, the town recouped two prime, Main Street parking spaces out of the deal, where the horse-drawn carriage had been loading and unloading its passengers. Meanwhile, the owners got to keep the horse and buggy, rendering any proposals for a bonfire moot.
Framing the measure as an issue of public safety and traffic control, Holman conceded the town could have simply passed the law without buying the rights to the business, but that would have effectively pulled the rug out from under the owners who were trying to sell, he said, adding that the town's decision should not be interpreted as a knock against the owners in any way.
If fact, the town manager said the business had been "a nice amenity for the town for a lot of years … but we think it had come to the end of its useful life in town based on how much we can handle on our streets."
A group of homeowners in Dillon has come out strongly against a proposed five-story condominium building, saying the structure would be too large for the town's staid core area and would bring down their home values by blocking mountain views.
They made their objections plain on Wednesday evening at a community meeting, where the group of mostly second homeowners and Front Range residents said they felt blindsided by the 24-unit project's approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 2.
If approved by the Dillon Town Council, Dillon Flats Condominiums would be the first new building in the core area in over 20 years. While most of the homeowners said they support trying to get some development going in that area, they said a building of that size could set a dangerous precedent and wreck Dillon's sleepy charm.
"People want to come here because we don't have buildings everywhere, we are not Vail," said Jennifer Payne, who lives in Aurora but owns a unit across the street from the proposed build site. "We don't want to stand in a corridor of buildings where you can't see anything."
The building would sit on empty town-owned lots adjacent to Colorado Mountain College on East LaBonte Street that town council replatted and offered up for development earlier this year. Of the 24 proposed units in Dillon Flats, six would be reserved for workforce housing.
Dillon's town council has been pushing hard to kick-start development downtown, which sits in an idyllic but tucked-away spot above the shores of Lake Dillon.
Those efforts haven't always sat well with homeowners, as was the case with council's controversial approval of a new amphitheater that some said will be too big and too modern.
Construction on that project began this summer, but it's unclear whether or not the uproar this time will keep shovels out of the ground; development consultants have recommended Dillon increase the population of its core area to spur growth there, and Dillon Flats would contribute to the town's goal of adding more than 200 units.
The council members present on Wednesday night listened attentively but remained coy about their intentions. They are set to vote on the proposal during their next meeting on Aug. 15.
Unlike the amphitheater, Dillon Flats drew universal praise for design aesthetics. But the 58-foot height of the proposed structure — despite being in accordance with town code — drew unflattering comparisons to the nearby La Riva Del Lago building, which is also that tall and was described as an eyesore.
Rabbi Joel Schwartzman of Salt Lake City, who bought his unit in the Lodge at Lake Dillon for its Gore Range views, delivered an impassioned plea to the council members to save his vistas of Red and Buffalo mountains.
He also appealed to their pocketbooks, arguing that the loss of the views could decrease property values by as much as $60,000 per unit.
"When our property values go down, as they surely will, will the amount you accrue as a town not be in some way impacted, maybe even offset, by the amount you'd get with the addition of this building?"
Some of the attendees of Wednesday's meeting wouldn't lose their views, but they still found a building that large hard to swallow.
"There is a larger group of people who are not directly affected by the project who just feel it is a bad idea to have four- or five-story buildings in the town core," said homeowner Robert Winstead.
In a letter he submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission opposing the project, Winstead suggested the town put taller buildings up on the hill near Highway 6, not in the low and flat area near the lakeshore.
He wasn't the only one with different ideas for spurring development on Wednesday evening. Several attendees took aim at the old buildings in the core area, which they described as neglected and shabby.
Could changes to the town code be retroactively applied to those buildings, forcing their owners to fix them up? (No, Mayor Kevin Burns answered.)
Could the town tear down the buildings and put up nicer ones in their place? (Not without condemning them, which was unlikely to be popular with property owners, answered town manager Tom Breslin.)
Why couldn't the Dillon Flats developer buy one of those buildings, tear it down and build a new one? ("Do you guys want to buy one?" quipped councilman Brad Bailey.)
Another attendee, Paul Provost, asked if the town owned the lot on the corner of Lake Dillon Drive and LaBonte Street, a most prime location for development now occupied by a squat Post Office building. (It doesn't.)
"So USPS has to go out of business before we can get that?" Provost asked.