With land parcels quickly becoming a rare commodity in Breckenridge, the town council decided to redevelop the Block 11 and McCain properties on the western side of Colorado State Highway 9 coming into town. The council this week gave the direction to move forward with soil testing on the McCain property. It also decided to look into how many units would be needed for housing and the feasibility of adding service commercial areas.
During its Tuesday work session, the town council reviewed master plans for the two adjacent parcels of land, which total approximately 201.4 acres.
Developed with Norris Designs, the plans outlined uses for both properties, such as workforce housing and a possible parking structure. The first plan for Block 11 was originally put together in 2007, while the McCain project had a more recent update in 2013. Town spokeswoman Kim Dykstra said that the master plans for the two pieces of land were originally developed separately, but the council now wants to look at them as a whole due to their proximity to each other. She added that the council will determine whether the housing and parking proposals on the two pieces of land make sense together.
"To have still any vacant property available to do some planning around is a luxury," said Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe. "We still do have room to build some great neighborhoods and keep more locals living in our community."
Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron agreed, adding that the large size of the property meant that the council had a lot of options to look at.
Denison Placer is only a small piece of potential developments that could find a home on the two pieces of property. Block 11, the smaller of the two developments at 18.1 available acres, has room for an additional 246 units after Denison Placer is completed. The McCain property sits on 128.6 acres, but already includes some planned projects such as the water plant and a proposal that would expand the solar garden area. Despite the other development projects on the land, the master plan estimates that 200 workforce-housing units will fit on the property.
While Wolfe said that she originally thought it was good to look at developing Block 11 as one chunk, it may be better to now look at it in separate pieces.
"You don't want the neighborhood to be too compartmentalized. You do want it to have a good feel to it; you want to build a good livable neighborhood," she said.
Part of this is due to the evolving needs of the town, such as overflow parking. She added that there is room for a relationship between the potential workforce housing neighborhood and Airport Road, which has recently seen more organic retail growth such as the expansion of Broken Compass Brewing. The interest in the area could draw future businesses.
"If we master plan the whole thing with no opportunity for that, are we doing ourselves a disservice?" Wolfe questioned.
Mayor Eric Mamula voiced similar concerns during the work session saying that he didn't want to have a strict plan before a developer comes on board. Flexibility would allow for more organic growth in the area.
Both Wolfe and Bergeron are also interested in the different possibilities for open space on the large parcels of land. Bergeron said that since the area is really the first view for people driving into Breckenridge, an open space area would be ideal.
The Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission recently received a grant of $350,000 for Oxbow Park, which is planned for Block 11.
Wolfe said that the area could be developed for beginner trails.
"That is such a beautiful place out there now that the river's restored," she said.
It is estimated the plant will cost $53 million. The proposal during Tuesday's meeting looked at potential designs for the plant, as well as the support buildings that accompany it. The plans include building and lighting designs for the water treatment plant, a pump station as well as four other buildings and parking lots. The planning commission held a hearing for the plant on April 18 and recommended to the council to move forward with the plan.
The return of mud season as the past winter's snow begins to melt also means the re-emergence of local black bears in search of food following months of hibernation.
April and May are still early into bear season and Summit County has not had any incidents of note thus far, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife prefers to keep it that way. The state animal management agency knows such situations can materialize quickly if homeowners or visitors to the area don't uphold their duty of trying to prevent human-bear conflicts.
"If people live in bear territory in Colorado, and anymore that is a big part of the state, this is the time of year when they're active and looking for food," said Mike Porras, CPW's northwest region spokesman. "Some unfortunately learn these areas are a steady source of food from trash or some people feeding them — which is highly irresponsible — and once rewarded willingly or unwillingly, these bears are likely to come back to those areas, neighborhoods and homes."
Avoiding such episodes keeps not only the region's residents safe, but the animals themselves, too. That entails abiding by a handful of recommendations when cooking out, throwing away garbage or during overnight outdoor stays.
Using bear-proof containers and storing food properly outside of a tent are best practices to follow when camping. Bears have a heightened sense of smell, so ensuring all food and seasonings are burned off completely from grills and fires is another easy step, as is locking up trash containers completely to avert them from being habituated, making bears comfortable with human interactions. In addition, bringing bird feeders inside at night helps to keep them from becoming attractants to hungry mammals out hunting for a quick meal.
"At this point of the year we can still get late frost, and that could impact their mast crop," Porras said of typical early-season bear cuisine, like acorns, berries and forms of vegetation. "When their natural food is plentiful, they tend to stick to that. But once their systems are back to natural function they start to look at other sources of food, and if they find an easy source, they're opportunists and will certainly return."
Understanding what necessitates contacting district wildlife officers or emergency response is also important. Merely seeing a bear is not a reason to call. So long as the animal moves along, that's not cause for alarm over human welfare. It's when a bear sticks around or returns for food and shows a lack of fear that is concerning.
When that happens, CPW should be called to the scene to tranquilize and relocate the animal. The bear is tagged and taken between 50-100 miles away. From there, if it reappears or exhibits similar assertive behaviors, like repeatedly getting into the trash or posing a threat to human life, then it would be euthanized.
In some instances, the "two-strike" state policy does not apply. If a bear breaks into a home or sometimes even a tent, per an officer's discretion, the animal can instantly be killed. If a bear attacks, say, a sheep, that's also grounds for putting the animal down.
Landowners, just the same as people in the outdoors, are permitted to protect human life and that of their livestock with lethal force. Those incidents should immediately be reported to CPW, however, and a full investigation will take place to verify a proper justification for the action.
Steering clear of the scenario from the get-go remains the priority. Bears do not see humans as prey, but they can become aggressive toward people, especially if suddenly cornered or with cubs. And welcoming these massive animals back to an area repeatedly by either feeding them or ducking the charge to hinder them from becoming accustomed to certain circumstances endangers all related parties.
"If you don't follow regulations, you're putting yourself in jeopardy, and your neighbors in jeopardy," said Porras. "None of our officers wants to put down a bear, and it's the worst part of job, but they will carry out that responsibility when necessary for human health and safety."
Breckenridge and Silverthorne town council meetings upcoming this week.
During their work session and meeting on Tuesday, the Breckenridge Town Council will discuss the new water plant project on the McCain property.
The council will do a first reading on an ordinance conveying town-owned property for the Broken Compass Brewing Company. The council will then discuss an ordinance on fees for restaurants and lounges, specifically relating to snack bars and delis. Council will vote on a resolution for an open space acquisition of land at Sawlog and Wonderful Lot 2.
During the work session the council will hear about a waste and recycling program from the High County Conservation Center. The work session will end in an executive session.
This Wednesday, the Silverthorne Town Council will swear in Kevin McDonald, who will fill Peggy Long's vacant seat. Now that the council is full, members will vote on who will replace Long as mayor pro tem for the town and review committee assignments. The council will then do a second reading for an appropriations ordinance as well as reviewing a conditional use permit for the Silverthorne Veterinary Hospital.
The council will also vote to adopt the master plan for North Pond Park. The council is looking at a petition to establish a public hearing date to annex the Colorado Department of Transportation Maintenance Facility.
The county's largest workforce-housing development is moving along, albeit on a slower schedule than initially expected as officials continue to iron out the details.
Initial infrastructure work on Lake Hill, a 436-unit workforce-housing project just north of Frisco, had been tentatively slated to begin this spring, and construction on the first phase of the development was expected to start in 2018.
That timetable has now been pushed back at least a year as county and Frisco officials continue to study the ambitious project's potential impacts on the town and ways the two governments could work together to bring it to fruition.
"We have to take another look at our timelines," said county planning director Don Reimer. "I think our initial goal was to be having the first units on the ground and ready to be occupied in spring of 2019, and I think maybe that was an unrealistic goal when we were starting the master planning process."
That master plan is mostly complete, however it is currently being amended to include some clarifications requested by the Frisco Town Council. Although the project will be on county land, Frisco has been brought into the planning process because of its close proximity to the 45-acre parcel. At one point, the town even considered annexing the property, although that's now off the table.
Lake Hill will also use Frisco's water and sewer systems, and the specifics of that arrangement along with myriad other moving parts need to be sorted before shovels hit the ground.
"I think it has to wait because there's just a bunch of analysis that we have to do to understand and have common agreement with the town council," said County Commissioner Thomas Davidson. "There's just a bunch of homework that we've got to do before we could move forward, and that's going to necessitate a longer timeline."
Late last month, county officials held a joint meeting with the Frisco council to clarify some of those points. One of the biggest considerations was how putting around 1,000 new residents on the town's doorstep might affect traffic at the key intersection between Highway 9, Dillon Dam Road, Interstate 70 and Lusher Court.
To address that, the county, Frisco and the Colorado Department of Transportation might partner on expansion projects aimed at alleviating any added congestion.
"We need to find out if we can even develop anything on Lake Hill before doing some transportation improvement," Davidson said. "We can't make mistakes on something like this. I don't think the people of Summit County would ever forgive us if we really screwed up an intersection because of a housing project."
Officials in Frisco also have other irons in the fire, with 36 new workforce units on the way and other potential projects that could turn around faster than something as large as Lake Hill, which is expected to take at least a decade to complete.
The county government is involved in several other housing projects as well, and officials from both camps agreed it would be wise not to push all of their resources into Lake Hill at once.
"I think one of the reasons why maybe this project wouldn't happen as quickly as what was originally thought is because there are other projects to look at, so it might just be a shift of priorities," said Frisco community development director Joyce Allgaier.
Securing financing and rezoning the Lake Hill parcel under a planned unit development are also likely to be yearlong processes. Despite the urgency of Summit's housing crunch, officials don't want to rush those either.
"The county certainly has never undertaken a project of this magnitude before, so we've got certain things that we need to learn and more homework to do," Davidson said. "We're treating this development project like we'd treat anyone else's, and we wouldn't approve a project of this size without all of the 'I's' dotted and 'T's' crossed."
In Summit County, the dominos are falling faster than the snowflakes. Keystone and Copper Mountain ski resorts immobilized their lifts last weekend, and Breckenridge Ski Resort closes out its season this weekend.
With its anticipated early June closing, only Arapahoe Basin Ski Area remains in operation in Summit County, while Loveland Ski Area, just outside Summit, is still running, but not for long, because they're anticipating closing the first week of May.
While the ski season is waning and we're already starting to see the effects, the outdoor opportunities here and across the state persist. In fact, the single largest celebration of America's national heritage wraps up this weekend with free admission Saturday and Sunday to the federal parks system for National Park Week (see page 2 for additional information on the week).
This includes well-known locations such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde and the Great Sand Dunes — all in Colorado — in addition to lesser-known state attractions like Colorado National Monument in Fruita.
Rocky Mountain National Park charges $20 per carload for a one-day pass, and people can save a few bucks taking advantage of the free weekend; the next free day won't be until Aug. 25, when the National Park Service celebrates its birthday.
Still, it might be a little cold for camping. With that in mind, here are a few other weekend offerings on tap in and around Summit.
A PERFECT PAIRING
For $50 in advance or $100 on the day of the event, people can experience six food stations with six Tommyknocker beers for the fourth annual "A Perfect Pairing" event. It will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Rocky Mountain Village Camp in Empire. To buy tickets, go to EasterSealsColorado.org. Proceeds will help send more than 20 youths to camp.
MARCH FOR SCIENCE
Breckenridge is joining more than 400 satellite marches worldwide, including the big one in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the March for Science. The local march will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the South Gondola parking lot and ends with a celebration from 2:30-5 p.m. at The Village with a handful of guest speakers and live music.
Revisit the classic film "The Wizard of Oz" with Judy Garland in the lead during a 2:30-4:15 p.m. showing at the South Branch Library. For more, SummitCountyLibraries.org.
YOUNG COMPOSERS COMPETITION CONCERT
This concert will feature the winners of the Young Composers Competition, ages 10 to 18, at 6 p.m. at Summit Middle School in Frisco. For more, SummitMusicAndArts.org.
SEASON END PARTY
Today and Saturday, Vail
Kevin Danzig, Faith Crawford, Scooter Barnes and Mike Fauth perform as The Kevin Danzig Band, playing a variety of rock and soul favorites in addition to original songs, in a free, end-of-the-season concert at Vail.
Dillon is looking for developers interested in mixed-use residential and commercial projects in its core area, formally issuing a request for proposals on nine town-owned lots earlier this week.
A pre-bid meeting will be held on April 24 at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, although attendance is not mandatory. Final submissions are due by the end of the day on July 7.
By emphasizing high-density residential projects, town officials hope to bring the number of permanent resident in the core area — which now stands at only around 30 or 40 — up to at least 200 while increasing total retail space in the area to 100,000 square feet.
With that, they hope, will come the jobs and businesses that could ultimately transform the town from a mostly bedroom community for second-home owners into a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly community for locals and vacationers alike.
“This is about creating an enclave based on our mountain lake-style identity, so it’s not going to be some of the quick-serve options on Highway 6 where it’s all about accessibility.”Kerstin AndersonDillon marketing and communications director
That would be in contrast to the Dillon Ridge area of town across Highway 6, which is dominated by large chain stores and restaurants that currently generate most of Dillon's sales tax revenue.
"This is about creating an enclave based on our mountain lake-style identity, so it's not going to be some of the quick-serve options on Highway 6 where it's all about accessibility," said Dillon marketing and communications director Kerstin Anderson.
Luring people from those big-box retail areas and into Dillon's lakefront core has been a perennial challenge despite its great potential, according to a recent study by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
"Downtown Dillon has many of the qualities of great downtown but attracting people to come into the core area is challenging given all the other competition around," it notes. "This further strengthens the argument for getting more people living in the downtown. If they already live there, the town doesn't have to work to draw them into downtown."
According to the study, the town could attract two large demographics — baby boomers and millennials — by creating the type of pedestrian-friendly community both cohorts are increasingly attracted to. The study also cites a number of potential draws in the downtown area, including the lakefront, farmers market and amphitheater, which is currently being remodeled to accommodate bigger events.
Since most of the second-home owners around town are boomers, there could be potential to draw them in as full-timers.
"For a long time, long-term people didn't want to do anything with their retirement community," said Anderson. "But second-home owners are coming to understand that by doing nothing, we're going backwards. And now, boomers and millenials are looking for some of the same things in their communities."
"The whole circumference around the core area is residential, but it's always been a second-home area," said longtime property owner Eddie O'Brien. "But now it's starting to make more sense for permanent residents."
In his view, development has been stalled in part because of a recently changed rule that placed exorbitant fees on large projects that would strain town parking.
"There are a lot of reasons for it but there was a period of time in the late 1990s when there were developers in town doing renovations," he said. "Then the town changed the regulations for parking, and guess what? They packed up and left. But now the incentives have changed."
The parcels the town is offering up are mostly used for parking right now. A recent study found that Dillon's core has a large glut of parking spaces, encouraging the town to pitch the nine lots as development sites.
"They've never actually been marketed, so I don't think that people necessarily thought they were available," Anderson said. "We're trying to package them creatively to maximize the appeal."
All developers are welcome to submit proposals, but O'Brien said he hopes that property owners in the core will use the opportunity to acquire parcels next to their existing buildings and expand them — or tear them down altogether and rebuild.
"The parcels are small, and if the town sells them individually they're just going to be covering up the existing, old buildings behind them," he said. "You've got to tear down these old buildings to get residential in there. The core area is only 20 acres, so this is not going to be a great big town. Any density is going to have to come from new, taller construction."
The ice device put out on Lake Dillon in March is floating in open water, but exactly who won the $4,000 grand prize has yet to be deciphered.
Organizers for the annual Rotary Club fundraiser are waiting for the thin sheet of ice covering much of Lake Dillon to disappear before they can retrieve it, and so they don't know exactly how long the ice lasted before the device took the plunge.
However, Diane Monaghan, chairperson for the fundraiser, said that they can see it through a telescope, the barrel has clearly flipped and is indeed floating. This is only the third time ever that it's fallen before April 21 since the contest began in 1986. The other times that happened came on April 11, 2012, and April 20, 2015.
"All we know right now is the ice under the device is melted and it's floating," Monaghan said. "It occurred sometime on the 16th, and we're waiting for the Dillon Marina to decided that it's safe to go get it."
The device is floating on a 55-gallon drum full of air and weights to keep right side up after it hits the water. The barrel also has a clock inside that tracks when it goes buoyant.
Just how long it might be before they're able to retrieve the device is largely up to the weather, Monaghan said.
"My personal guess is it's a few days away, but who knows what Mother Nature is going to throw at us in the next week," Monaghan estimated.
The person who guessed closest to the time the barrel went to float will receive $4,000 with second and third place taking home $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.
With about 5,000 tickets printed and more sold online, the fundraiser typically generates about $14,000 to $18,000 for Rotary Club, Monaghan said, with $7,000 going into the prizes.
"It's helping Rotary do good things in the world," she added.
The early months of the year are typically slow for real estate sales in Summit County, but 2017 began by breaking the mold, seeing large amounts of sales despite low inventory.
Some of the boost in sales is due to new housing developments selling homes during different phases of construction before the property is completed. Summit Sky Ranch in the Blue River Valley near Silverthorne is set to have 240 homes in the new development. Tricia McCaffrey Hyon, the senior vice president of sales for Summit Sky Ranch, said that they have 87 committed buyers with a sales volume of more than $72 million.
"It was really exciting, not expected at all. But we had an amazing, record-breaking March, far beyond anything we really anticipated," Hyon said.
The homes at Summit Sky Ranch start at 1,550 square feet in the $600,000 range.
After a large amount of snowfall in the beginning of the year, Hyon said that they had concerns on being able to bring buyers in to look at properties. They started doing snowshoe tours of the area as a means of bringing people in.
"It was purely out of necessity and demand," she said.
The Shores at Breckenridge, a new development owned by Boulder-based Meriwether Companies, have also seen strong sales. Five of the six homes in the first phase of the development have already sold. The Shores will have another 16 homes completed by 2020. Prices for homes at The Shores, which is located on 10 acres across from the Breckenridge Golf Course, range from $1 million to $1.6 million.
"We are finding strong demand for our homes' open floor plans and luxury features," said Noah Hahn, managing partner for Meriwether Companies in a release. "The added beauty of outdoor entertaining areas set among mountain and river views combined with the nearby outdoor recreation, shopping and entertainment amenities are attracting second-home buyers."
Summit County sees a higher rate of cash buyers, particularly in the luxury market. Brooke Roberts, the director of sales and marketing at the Land Title Guarantee Company, estimated that 35 percent of transactions in the county are done with cash. People using cash have not been impacted by the raise in interest rates that happened earlier this year. Most of the new developments in the county by private developers have been on the higher end of the market. Paula Stanton, a real estate professional with Liv Sotheby's in Breckenridge, said that because land is so expensive, to build on, it is more difficult for contractors to come in and build affordable housing projects.
She added that the new developments have added to the strength of the upper end of the market. Low inventory has caused people to be less particular when shopping for a home. Single-family homes, especially, have spent less time on the market. But people looking into second homes have the time to wait for houses to be built in new developments like The Shores and Summit Sky Ranch.
"New construction, those exciting new projects where people can get something under contract, make their own selections and changes, if they're willing to wait a year or so, that's where we're seeing the higher dollar sales," Stanton said.
There has also been an increase in land sales, according to Stanton, who said that it was likely due to the same group of people willing to wait for a more personalized home.
The real estate market in Summit has been growing since the start of 2017, which is typically a slower time for sales. Roberts said that the county had seen boosts in both the number of sales, and the total revenue from them. The monetary value of sales for year-to-date sales has increased by 43 percent compared to March of 2016. Transactions for year-to-date were also up 12 percent. For the month of March transactions were up 31 percent. Roberts said that Summit tends to follow the same pattern as the Denver market, but a year behind.
"The prices have gone up, so it's a seller's market due to lack of inventory," Roberts said. "We've been pretty steady. Our business at Land Title is up 25 percent in March compared to last March."
Hospitals across Colorado could see their revenues slashed by $264 million unless the Legislature can reach a compromise over the hospital provider fee, an arcane mechanism through which providers receive matching federal funds for treating uninsured patients and Medicaid recipients.
A bill to avert the cut passed a key committee in the Republican-controlled Senate earlier this week, but like most budget matters, it could face a rocky path to the governor's desk.
The fee is assessed to hospitals but then refunded with a federal match, effectively doubling their money. But the formula used to pay back that money is weighted toward rural hospitals, meaning the cut would disproportionately affect providers like St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco.
The county's only hospital would stand to lose $690,312 next year if the cut isn't averted, which could lead to reductions in service across the board.
“From a budget standpoint, absolutely, we’re thinking about this, and we have to be prepared for what the future looks like. We don’t know yet, so we’re not saying the sky is falling. But we certainly want to be as prepared as we can be.”Sharon BurnetteSt. Anthony Summit Medical Center spokeswoman
"There are some critical issues that we feel could be in jeopardy based on the size of this cut," said hospital spokeswoman Sharon Burnette.
St. Anthony's emergency room sees a particularly high number of trauma patients, given its proximity to several of the state's most popular ski areas and networks of hiking and biking trails.
The cut, however, could force the hospital to dial down some of its trauma care as it shifts resources to make up for the revenue pinch.
"We might have to only provide evaluation and stabilization care and then transport patients to someone else," Burnette said. "That's not something we want to do. We want to keep them in the community and we want to be able to have the right mix of physicians and nurses who are trauma experienced."
The provider fee was established at the peak of the recession, when providers were treating higher numbers of indigent patients who couldn't pay. Hospitals asked lawmakers for a solution, and they came up with the fee as way to infuse hospitals with federal money.
The state can't actually spend the money generated by the fee, but because of an accounting quirk it still contributes to revenues that trigger a taxpayer refund under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
Colorado's economy has made a robust recovery since the fee was first established, however, and budget-makers this year had to cut the fee to the tune of $264 million to prevent a refund.
The Senate proposal currently being considered, SB 267, would reclassify the fee as an enterprise fund, exempting it from TABOR calculations. At the same time, however, it would lower the amount of state tax revenue subject to spending limits by $670 million, a potential stumbling block for the Democratic House that would ultimately need to approve the bill.
"What's worked for us in the past is compromise, and that's certainly a strategy that works for me personally," said Representative Millie Hamner, whose district includes Summit County. "The problem is that reducing the (TABOR) cap defeats the purpose of reclassifying this revenue."
The measure has strong support from hospitals, particularly those in rural areas who have testified that they might have to close if the cuts aren't prevented.
Other High Country hospitals would see an even bigger hit than St. Anthony: the Vail Valley Medical Center would stand to lose $1,133,297, and Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs would see a $3,786,269 cut, according to data from the Colorado Joint Budget Committee.
Schools have also voiced support for SB 267, which would shift $400 million in education funds to rural counties, including Summit. It would also bond $1.35 billion for transportation and infrastructure, with 25 percent earmarked for rural areas.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is currently considering the bill, which would need to be passed by the full Senate and approved by the House, where changes will likely be made.
Meanwhile, hospitals are pressing lawmakers to iron out a solution before the legislative session ends on May 10 — but also preparing for a potential hit.
"From a budget standpoint, absolutely, we're thinking about this, and we have to be prepared for what the future looks like," Burnette said. "We don't know yet, so we're not saying the sky is falling. But we certainly want to be as prepared as we can be."