Monday, April 23, 2007

Re-zoning Mining Claims

The County is proposing to rezone about 300 privately owned mining claims in the Snake River and Ten Mile basins.

The backcountry zoning changes the rules for building on mining claims, reducing setbacks from 50 feet to 25 feet. It allows property owners to access their lots via existing roads, even if they aren't up to county standards.

Structure size is also limited in the backcountry zone, ranging from 900 square feet on a typical five-acre lot, up to 2,400 square feet on a 35-acre parcel, as well accessory structures like garages and sheds up to 500 square feet.

The move to rezone the private properties is in keeping with county and basin master plans, which aim to "ensure that growth occurs in appropriate locations and that our rural mountain character is maintained."

The basic idea is to limit backcountry homes and steer development toward areas deemed more suitable for development, while still leaving room for development of smaller cabins on backcountry parcels. The backcountry zoning works in tandem with a transfer of development rights (TDR) mechanism that enables owners of backcountry parcels to sell development rights at about $40,000 per unit, explained county planning director Jim Curnutte. That gives owners another option, he explained.

Similar zoning has been in place in the Upper Blue Basin for about six years, where about 60 development rights have been sold out of the backcountry to a TDR bank, Curnutte said.

"It's worked so well in the Upper Blue to maintain the desired backcountry feel," Curnutte said.

The number of requests for minimum lot size variances dropped, and there have only been two building permits issued in the backcountry zone, both for smaller sized homes, he said.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Property Taxes Going Up

County Assessor Beverly Breakstone is expecting many locals to be surprised at news they will soon receive about large increases in property taxes.

Breakstone presented a number of figures to the Summit Association of Realtors recently, explaining that the actual value of all real property in the county has increased since 2005 from $10.9 billion to $14.02 billion.

“The first misconception people have is that we appraise properties arbitrarily,” Breakstone said.

This is not the case, she explained. “We value fairly and uniformly.”

The 28.4 percent increase is mostly due to the amount of open space and government-owned land, according to Breakstone. Vacant land only makes up 6 percent of the county, while commercial property uses 7 percent. Plus, two-third of property owners do not live full time in the county, and only half of the second-home owners live in the state, a statistic often attributed to increased housing prices.

This year is a “reappraisal” year, Breakstone said, which is set by state statute, meaning the assessor will reappraise all parcels in the county. All notices of valuation will be sent out to all real property owners on May 1.

The residential property assessment value this year is 7.96 percent, while commercial, vacant and mining claims are at 29 percent.

Taxpayers can appeal the value throughout the month of May. Appeals must be done in writing and can be delivered in person, by mail, fax, e-mail and online.

Taxpayers can appeal the assessor’s determination by filing an appeal with the County Board of Equalization by July 15.

The assessor’s office analyzes the following data to determine the contributors of value: Inflation/deflation; location; size of land and structure; view; quality of construction; and special features.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Local Author Wins Awards

Books by well-known local author Mary Ellen Gilliland captured three awards at the recent Colorado Independent Publishers Association 2007 Evvy Awards in Denver.

Gilliland's local history, "Rascals, Scoundrels and No Goods," earned the competition's Legacy Award. This book features the antics of shysters and shady ladies, swindlers and rogues of the mineral rush. The book offers a look backward at the brazen seizure of 1860s claim jumpers who not only took possession of prospectors' claims but "jumped" whole towns.

"SUMMIT, A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado, 25th Anniversary Edition," received two awards. They included an EVVY history-category second place and a Tech Award for the book's antique photographs and illustrations. The book details Summit County's history and also offers hands-on field trips, including historical bike, jeep and auto tours.

Colorado Independent Publishers Association is the largest independent book publishers association in the country. Now in its 27th year, Gilliland's publishing company, Alpenrose Press, has published more than 20 books on Colorado history, hiking and the outdoors. Her books are available at most Sujmmit County bookstores.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Vail Resorts Pass Pricing

Vail Resorts has announced spring pricing for its Colorado Pass, Buddy Pass and the new Colorado Pass PLUS.

The Colorado Pass offers unlimited access to Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin with no restrictions, plus 10 restricted days at Vail and Beaver Creek. The pass is offered at $419 for adults, $319 for teens, ages 13-18 and $199 for children, ages 5-12. That’s $40 more than last spring’s prices, but the same as the pass cost last fall.

The Buddy Pass provides unlimited lift access at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin with no date restrictions at $379 for adults, $299 for teens and $189 for children — a $30 increase over last spring.

New for next season is the Colorado Pass PLUS, which features six unrestricted days at Vail and Beaver Creek, plus four additional days to which restrictions apply, and unlimited lift access at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. The pass is priced at $519 for adults, $379 for teens and $239 for children

When purchased by May 6, the Colorado Pass and the Colorado Pass PLUS include four unrestricted $45 lift tickets valid all season at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin. People who purchase their passes by May 6 will also earn unlimited skiing and riding at Vail and Beaver Creek during the month of April 2008, and receive a one-year subscription to SKIING Magazine.

Vail Resorts season passes can be secured at the current prices for $29 down and the balance of the payment will be deferred until September 2007. The prices are guaranteed through May 6.

Pass renewals are available online at . New passes will go on sale on April 13 at select Front Range locations including Boulder Ski Deals, Colorado Ski and Golf in Aurora, Arvada, Colorado Springs and Littleton, and REI’s Denver flagship and Fort Collins stores from Friday through Sunday during store hours.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chief Ski Exec Resigns

Roger McCarthy, chief operating officer of Breckenridge Ski Resort and co-president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division, announced his resignation Tuesday after seven years in Summit County.

McCarthy, often the public voice of Breckenridge and Keystone resorts during most of the last decade, will be joining a private investment company to develop a new ski resort in Russia.

McCarthy’s new project — Rosa Khutor resort — is located near the city of Sochi in southwestern Russia, one of three finalists bidding on the 2014 Winter Games (cities in Austria and South Korea are also in the running).

Moscow-based Interros, the private investment firm, said on its website that plans for the ski area include multiple growth steps over the next five years in order to reach its maximum goal of 9,500 visitors per day.

“It’s a bittersweet decision, but I have been offered the rare opportunity to be involved in leading the development of an entirely new resort from the ground up,” said McCarthy, whose final day will be May 4.

Not many people have (this opportunity). There hasn’t been a resort built in this country in 25 years since Beaver Creek.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dillon Reservoir at 95% of Capacity

Denver Water will soon start to increase outflows from Dillon Reservoir.

With average snow and rain the next few weeks, the boating season could last for a month. During some recent dry summers, boating the Lower Blue wasn't even an option.

"Things are looking good, but I said that last year, too," said Denver Water's Marc Waage. If there's some extra spring moisture, boating in the Lower Blue could last nearly all summer, Waage added.

"We saw the inflow come up in March, which is pretty unusual," Waage explained.

As of April 1, Dillon reservoir was 95.6 percent full, only 3.5 feet below the level of the spillway, according to caretaker Dave Fernandez. That's the highest level for that date since 1984 and the fourth-highest ever, according to Waage.

Denver Water's entire storage system is at 90 percent of capacity, the highest April 1 storage figures since Dillon Reservoir was built, he said.

"We actually gained storage during the winter for the first time ever," Waage said.Heavy Front Range snows led to record winter stream flows in the South Platte. So the Roberts Tunnel, which carries water from Dillon Reservoir to the Front Range, was off all winter, Waage explained.

"Obviously, we'll easily fill the reservoir," Waage said. Right now, the aim is to balance between reducing the risk of flooding downstream from the reservoir and generating enough flows for boating and to flush sediments out of the Lower Blue.