Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Summit County planners look to adapt to Denver-fueled building boom hitting mountains

#Summit County #Colorado
Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

Summit County is in the midst of a building boom, with the recession now seeming like a distant memory for some. Strong economic indicators are priming the pipe for a flood of new building proposals.
The county planning department, which handles applications for projects on unincorporated land, saw an estimated 40 percent jump in planning cases in 2017 compared to the previous year, with the Upper Blue and Snake River basins posting particularly busy years.
"Without a doubt, there has been a major increase in building activity," said county planning director Don Reimer. "I think it's really just about the health of the economy overall. Proximity to Denver has certainly made Summit an attractive and easy-to-get-to place for folks who live there to escape to the mountains for the weekend, and as a result that has led to a lot of opportunity for a lot more development."
The complexity of planning cases has increased as well, with most of the low-hanging fruit on easy build sites already plucked. That's pushed developers to long-neglected lots that require more creative engineering to build on.
“All of the easy properties are developed. ... There is a lot more building going on at difficult sites that require complicated for places with very steep lots or wetlands and things like that.”Don Reimer Summit County planning director
"All of the easy properties are developed," Reimer said. "There is a lot more building going on at difficult sites that require complicated plans for places with very steep lots or wetlands and things like that."
The county government announced nine vacancies on its various planning commissions on Tuesday, at the cusp of what will likely be another busy year for reviewing projects across the county's four planning basins.
In addition to the sheer volume of development cases in the pipeline, new commissioners will also be expected to weigh in on the county's master plans, which were last updated eight years ago.
The current plans, which set the general tone for land use policy in each of the basins, currently make no mention of burgeoning issues like climate change, short-term rentals, ride-sharing services and the use of e-bikes on county land, to name a few.
"Those are certainly things that have gotten on people's radars but weren't really on many people's minds when the plans were last updated," Reimer said. "That's why it's really important for us to continually update those documents."
The updated documents will also be used to identify areas that could be used for workforce housing projects, an increasingly urgent need in Summit County.
There are at least two major workforce projects currently being developed on county land, including the Village at Wintergreen and West Hills, a pair of developments near Keystone that will add more than 250 combined units for local workers.
The current political enthusiasm to tackle the housing crunch and the flurry of construction on county land could align to make employee housing projects a major responsibility of new commissioners, officials said.
"We are fully out of the recession at this point, seeing a pretty big building boom and seeing a lot of workforce-housing projects that people could have an opportunity to weigh in on," said county spokeswoman Julie Sutor.
The Lower Blue Basin Planning Commission, which covers northern Summit County, will soon have two vacancies available, along with the Countywide Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment. The Ten Mile Basin Planning Commission, covering Frisco and Copper Mountain, will have one vacancy, while the Upper Blue and Snake River commissions will remain full.
Applications are due Feb. 23 and open to residents who have lived in the county for at least a year. Board of Adjustment applicants must also have some experience in construction. Pending their approval by the Board of County Commissioners, terms for new commissioners would begin in early April.
The Upper Blue and Snake River basins were the busiest last year, seeing a high volume of mostly residential projects. The Lower Blue and Ten Mile basins were quieter, but Reimer said the workloads are "hit or miss" from year to year.
Ten Mile, for instance, is currently handling a pair of large development proposals at Copper Mountain Resort that are still in the early stages. Those projects, for a 50-room hotel and a 30-unit workforce-housing complex, will be major agenda items for future commissioners.
The Countywide Planning Commission, meanwhile, deals primarily with overall code changes, including regulations for short-term rentals that are currently in development.
That commission is also drafting potential code changes for backcountry-zoned properties, a move prompted in part by the building boom, as applications for large developments on those remote, tightly regulated lots have become more common.
"There are a number of backcountry lots within a ten-minute drive of Breckenridge that cost, say, $50,000," Reimer said. "Those are more challenging to build on, but people think they might still be able to do it more cheaply than on those really expensive lots in town."
A draft version of those rules drew significant pushback from landowners during a recent public hearing, prompting the Board of County Commissioners to table them for revision and later consideration.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Silverthorne enjoys glimpse into ‘the future’

#Silverthorne #Colorado
Special to the Summit Daily

Summit Daily Link

The developer spearheading a large-scale project that's expected to radically transform Silverthorne's downtown is getting closer to submitting a preliminary site plan.
Getting an early glimpse of what some elected officials have referred to as integral to the town's future, town officials seem to like what they see so far.
"What a great first stab you've taken at this," Councilman Derrick Fowler told the developer last week, echoing comments made by other members of the Silverthorne Town Council. "This is really encouraging."
The block that's to be developed is bordered by Third and Fourth streets and Highway 9 and Adams Avenue, directly across the highway from the new $9 million Silverthorne Performing Arts Center and Silverthorne Pavilion.
Currently on the property sit the Mountain Lyon Café, the Old Dillon Inn building, 1st Interstate Inn and The Mint Steakhouse.
All of that except The Mint, however, would be razed to make room for the project that isn't being framed as just another downtown addition; it's supposed to give Silverthorne its "Main Street experience."
Mayor Bruce Butler has named Fourth Street Crossing as one project he'd like to sign off on before he leaves office in April. Like Butler, the incoming mayor, Ann-Marie Sandquist, also has identified Fourth Street Crossing as a top priority.
"I'm really excited about what you're trying to do," Butler told the developer. "I appreciate all your efforts and the group you've put together, and I really look forward to seeing this come out of the dirt next year."
The developer, Milender White, was selected through an interview process to come up with a concept for the site after responding to a request for proposals last year.
Now, Milender White is getting close to submitting a preliminary site plan for Forth Street Crossing, said development executive Tim Fredregill as he walked Silverthorne Town Council through what his firm's done so far during the work session at Wednesday's council meeting.
It's not terribly common these days, but through work session hearings, the town gives developers a chance for an informal dialogue where they can feel each other out, have an informal conversation, so to speak, where they can offer suggestions and opinions before submitting the preliminary site plan.
This one went for almost an hour and a half as Fredregill, along with a half-dozen members of the development team, which includes DTJ Design, Tetra Tech engineering and LIV Sotheby's realty, presented slides showing how the project might look once complete and talked about some of the changes they've made as the project continues to take shape.
It doesn't appear like much changed too dramatically compared to Milender White's initial concept, but as Fredregill noted, some of the boxes on the site have been shifted.
As he described the project, the newest blueprints set the townhomes toward the interior with storefront retail on the southwest corner. There's still the boutique hotel, parking garage, transit facility and market hall, which they're thinking should have an event space, cafe, more retail and the preserved Old Dillon Inn.
Mixed-use retail and residential buildings will also line Fourth Street, with the hotel coming with a courtyard. A public plaza wraps around The Mint, which is to be preserved, and a market hall will built on the southeast corner of the block while incorporating the Old Dillon Inn.
Fredregill explained the plans for the hotel itself have also changed, but he said they've been altered for the better.
The original designs called for a three-story, select-service hotel, according to Fredregill, but he said that by adding a fourth floor, they can make it a full-service hotel with a full kitchen, rooftop bar and bistro, and a lobby.
Early ballpark estimates have pegged the entire Fourth Street Crossing project as a possibly $70 million development or more, and one major challenge posed to the development team is designing a mixed-use project that's both a tourist destination and a vibrant, thriving 24/7 community.
"What we want people to be able to do is come out, have a nice dinner, cross the street, go to a show at the performing arts center, cross back over, have a night cap and tuck into bed in the new hotel," Fredregill said. "We took that to heart and tried to make this a truly engaging and active place."
The project is still taking shape, but one thing Butler asked the developers to consider is how the project ages, as it's intended to be one for the ages in Silverthorne.
"It's not just a development," the mayor said looking forward. "You're really building the next 100 years of history."
To keep up with the project, find it on Facebook by searching "Fourth Street Crossing," or go to

Monday, January 29, 2018

Telluride Ski Resort joins Vail Resorts Epic Pass in 2018-19 winter season

AP | Summit Daily News

Summit Daily News Link

Vail Resorts, Inc. and Telluride Ski & Golf jointly announced today that Telluride Ski Resort will join the Epic Pass in a long-term alliance beginning with 2018-19 winter season, bringing the total to 46 mountain resorts for skiers and snowboarders. Telluride has been rated the "#1 Ski Resort in North America" five of the last six years by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.
"We're thrilled to welcome Telluride Ski Resort on the Epic Pass for the 2018-19 winter season, offering skiers and snowboarders even greater value and variety with the most popular season pass in the mountain resort industry. Telluride is on the bucket list of skiers and snowboarders around the world and we're delighted to offer this iconic mountain resort as part of the Epic Pass experience," said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts, in a statement.
"Telluride is excited to join the Epic Pass and a collection of world-class mountain resorts that skiers and snowboarders around the world come back to time and again. This new season pass alliance is more comprehensive and longer term than prior pass alliances and will provide an incredible benefit for both Telluride guests and our resort community. Epic Pass skiers and snowboarders thrive on new, unique one-of-a-kind adventures. We offer an extraordinary big mountain experience, signature hospitality and guest service, and an authentic, welcoming mountain town surrounded by stunning scenery," said Bill Jensen, CEO of Telluride Ski & Golf, in a statement.
Telluride is stashed amongst the highest concentration of 13,000- and 14,000-foot peaks in North America. Living up to its reputation for legendary terrain, Telluride has something for everyone. The Plunge, Revelation Bowl and Gold Hill offer plenty of steeps for experts.  
Forever and Prospect Bowl provide ideal terrain for intermediates and the wide open, gentle slopes of The Sunshine Express and The Meadows start beginners off right while enjoying the scenery of the San Juan Mountains.
Following are the benefits for Epic Pass, Epic 7-Day and Epic 4-Day pass holders, Telluride Season Pass holders and Telluride Ski & Golf Club members with full winter benefits.
  • Epic Pass™: Epic Pass holders will receive seven days of skiing or snowboarding with no blackout dates. Once the seven days have been used, pass holders can get 50 percent off lift tickets at Telluride. Pass holders get the added benefit of going direct to the lift with their pass and avoid the ticket window. The Epic Pass offers full access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; and Perisher in Australia, with no blackout dates. The Epic Pass also provides limited access to Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D'Isere in France; 4 Vallées in Switzerland; Arlberg in Austria and Skirama Dolomiti in Italy.
  • Epic 7-Day Pass: Epic 7-Day Pass holders will receive up to seven days of skiing or  snowboarding at Telluride with no blackout dates as part of their seven total days on the pass. After the seven days, regardless of the resort at which they were redeemed, pass holders can get 20 percent off additional lift tickets at Telluride. Pass holders get the added benefit of going direct to the lift with their pass and avoid the ticket window. The Epic 7-Day Pass features a total of seven days with no blackout dates at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe and Arapahoe Basin, plus seven additional free days at Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton or Wilmot Mountain.
  • Epic 4-Day Pass: Epic 4-Day Pass holders will receive up to four days of skiing or snowboarding at Telluride with no blackout dates as part of their four total days on the pass. After the four days, regardless of the resort at which they were redeemed, pass holders can get 20 percent off additional lift tickets at Telluride. Pass holders get the added benefit of going direct to the lift with their pass and avoid the ticket window. The Epic 4-Day pass features a total of four days with no blackout dates at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe and Arapahoe Basin, plus four additional free days at Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton or Wilmot Mountain.
  •  Telluride Season Pass holders and Telluride Ski & Golf Club Members with full winter benefits: These season pass holders and club members with full winter benefits will receive 50 percent off lift tickets at all Vail Resorts owned mountain resorts.
Vail Resorts' 2018-19 season passes will go on sale in early March at

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Mongolia lands gold at International Snow Sculpture Championships

#Breckenridge #Colorado
Team Mongolia | Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

Team Mongolia (Munkherdene) won gold Friday at the 28th International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge with a piece called "Secrets," depicting women and their secrets.
Last year's winner, Team China, took silver with the "Thinker," depicting an orangutan contemplating an apple, and Team USA-Wisconsin (Vogt) took bronze with "Dance Devine," depicting leaves intricately intertwining.
For the contest, 16 four-person teams spent many careful hours combined on each sculpture, crafted from a 25-ton, 12-foot-tall block of snow over the course of four days before Friday's judging deadline.
According to the Breckenridge Tourism Office, a committee sends 250 invitations in June and receives artists' submissions in August.
For the contest, 16 four-person teams spent more than 240 man-hours combined on each sculpture, crafted from a 25-ton, 12-foot-tall block of snow over the course of 60 hours in four days before Friday’s judging deadline.
From there, a selection process narrows the field down to 16 of the very best teams, who then are invited to compete in January.
Carving the snow, the artists are allowed to use hand tools and items like vegetable peelers, chicken wire and small saws. Power tools, coloring and internal support structures are strictly forbidden.
The teams came from all over the world, representing countries like China, India, Italy, Estonia, Mongolia and Mexico. Four came from the United States, including one out of Colorado and another from Breckenridge.
Being the hometown team, Team Breckenridge feels like they have to bring it every year at the International Snow Sculpture Championships. They always try to bring it home, too.
Credited with helping create the event, Rob Neyland said many of the sculptures' themes are deeply symbolic.
He once carved a tribute to the seven crew members killed in the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle disaster when he was with the hometown team, just to show how deep the sculptures can get.
This year's title, "Catch and Release," was a tip of the cap to Colorado's superb fly-fishing, a special piece for Tim West, a long-time Team Breckenridge teammate and the owner of Breckenridge Outfitters.
Along with Tom Day, Steve Nguyen and team captain Keith Martin, West helped carve out a risky 12-foot-long fly rod atop river rocks, with three fish, one in the hands of a 12-foot tall fisherman, almost like he's ready for the picture. Around the fisherman's ankles, ice suggests a waterline.
Mixing conservation and recreation, this year's idea was formed more than a year in advance, West said, and two years ago, they did a bull rider for a rodeo. Last year, it was a rescue dog for ski patrol.
"It's important to do some of those pieces that bring it back home, and make it feel like it's part of our community," he said, and the fishing here is "world-class."
A five-time participant in Breckenridge and two-time award winner, Team USA-Wisconsin (Tomczak) is a heavily decorated snow-carving team. They've won at the Snow Days Chicago international competition, in addition to multiple Wisconsin and Illinois state championships and the United States Snow Sculpture Championships in Lake Geneva.
On Thursday night, however, their hopes for another title in Breckenridge came crashing down with the collapse of their sculpture. A ballerina, head arched back, twirling a paper-thin ribbon and framed inside a delicate ring, it was an ambitious undertaking that was just a little too thin.
But as one of the team members told spectators Thursday night, they went all out, thought they had a design that would win gold and it cost them. Team Mexico's piece also fell victim to a structural failure moments before the Friday morning deadline. Judges recognized both teams for their willingness to take risks.
All of the remaining pieces will be on display outside the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge through Monday, when the town will take them down and return the parking lot to its normal state.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

If Denver gets new Amazon HQ, how will it affect surrounding mountain communities?

Getty Images | Summit Daily News

Summit Daily Link

Last week the Seattle-based tech behemoth Amazon announced that Denver is one of 20 cities on the company’s short list as they search for a location for their second headquarters. Selected out of a field of almost 240 cities, Amazon made it clear that there’s something they like about Colorado.
“This really wasn’t a surprise at all,” said Chris Hallberg, founder of Denver-based business advisory company Traction, Inc. “Denver is the new Silicon Valley, I’ve heard that for years. It’s not hard to get people to relocate here because of the healthy lifestyle, the great weather and the Rocky Mountains.
“There’s an obvious draw. There’s a fun culture and the millennials kind of run downtown. The housing is all new, and it’s really fettered toward the tech worker.”
Hallberg said that the main draw to Denver, and its surrounding areas, for a company like Amazon has more to do with culture and other ancillary issues than economic incentive packages. On top of exceptional weather, natural beauty and recreation which could help separate Denver from competitors, the city also boast a world-class airport and centralized location at the intersection of several interstate highways, making transportation easier.
Colorado’s residents also make it a compelling option.
“We should be talking to them about our educated workforce, and about how we’re adaptable,” said Victor Mitchell, Republican gubernatorial candidate and former state legislator. “We can get communities to customize and adapt special worker training programs. We also have a very young population.
“There’s many attributes that give us competitive advantages over any of the other cities. The economic incentives would just go down a black hole to a company like that.”
Mitchell gets the conversation started on the flip side of the coin. Amazon likes Colorado. But what should Colorado think of Amazon?
Mitchell is pro-Amazon, but vehemently opposes any economic development incentives to entice them, believing that the state should be using the incentives on small- and medium-sized companies to grow their business.
Others believe Denver should avoid Amazon altogether.
“We don’t need this,” said Jeffrey Zax, economics professor and associate chair of undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. “There’s no reason to believe that the Amazon location here is going to bring substantial benefits to the state. We have a 3 percent unemployment rate. With installations like this, most big jobs are taken by people moving in from out of state. People coming in are going to compound some of the issues we already have.”
Zax is referring to common concerns like traffic congestion and a lack of affordable housing. But he also believes the addition of a company using economic incentives may not be healthy for the economy.
“Successful economic development is organic economic development,” said Zax. “Successful economic development comes from employers and businesses being here because they want to be here, and not because they’re being paid to be there. I think it’s an unhealthy way to build the economy, by essentially bribing employers to come here.
“The evidence of the effectiveness of these kinds of economic developments that rise out of providing companies with substantial economic incentives indicates there’s little to no gain to the state as a whole.”
J.B. Holston, dean of the Daniel F. Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Denver, is a strong advocate of bringing Amazon to Denver, and has been active in the recruitment process. Holston believes Amazon will bring more philanthropic opportunities and strengthen workforce development, giving Colorado natives a better chance to stay in the state for the long haul if they choose.
Holston also said Amazon could prove an important partner in tackling infrastructure problems, housing problems and begin helping Denver plan for the future.
“What’s interesting to me is they’re not just a partner paying taxes, but they’re a great innovating company,” Holston noted. “It gives us a partner for infrastructure development. They’re doing cool things with respect to autonomous vehicles. They’re the most innovative company in the world right now on a whole bunch of different fronts.
“I think having someone like that as a partner is valuable as we figure out things like how to introduce autonomous vehicles in Colorado in an appropriate way. It gives us an opportunity to accelerate better solutions for traffic and housing. We’ll have to address those things anyhow. It gives us a shot to do this with a big innovative player, that now cares that we do it in a way that’s appropriate for their 50,000 families.”
Opinions vary as to the expected effects of potentially making an Amazon-sized splash in the Colorado economy (the new headquarters promise an added 50,000 jobs averaging six-figure salaries), but the ripples making their way to surrounding mountain communities might be more predictable.
Experts agree that the injection of cash and transplants into the Denver metro area would likely lead to at least a modest increase in some of the areas biggest industries like tourism, recreation and lodging.
“It adds to the contribution of people who can afford to have second homes and travel to the mountains,” said DiAnn Butler, Grand County’s economic development coordinator.
Zax said that the ripples could also include the worsening of traffic on I-70 and the exacerbation of the counties affordable housing issues, but noted that housing demand will rise regardless of Amazon’s arrival.
“If Amazon moves here that will give it an additional shove,” said Zax. “Housing is going to go up anyhow, and if you want housing prices to remain affordable, you have only one option, which is to increase supply to meet the demand.”
“From a pure capitalist perspective I love it,” said Hallberg. “As a citizen of Colorado I don’t know that it’s the best thing for this market. I’m absolutely conflicted. They need to look at this holistically, and not just through the lens of economic development, but quality of life development. What does our infrastructure support? And are our eyes bigger than our stomachs on this one?”

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Breckenridge town council stalls luxury hotel vote

#Breckenridge #Colorado
Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

If Breckenridge Town Council had voted Tuesday night on a development agreement for a 150-key, four-star hotel at the base of Peak 8, the proposal would have failed.
At the mayor's suggestion, the developers opted not to force the issue and instead sought a continuance. Not entirely against to the idea, council went 5-1 to hold off giving the agreement an up or down vote.
Only Jeffrey Bergeron sided against tabling the vote until the next council meeting on Feb. 6.
"If we were to vote on this, I don't know what we're voting for," Councilwoman Erin Gigliello said, echoing comments made by other elected officials. "That's what I'm struggling with is I can't vote yes unless I have these answers. It's just not there because I don't have the information."
Pursuing the project, the local time-share company Breckenridge Grand Vacations is working in a partnership with the Miami-based firm Lionheart Capital to bring a branded, four-star hotel, along with 110,000 square feet of wholly owned condos, to the base of Peak 8. The development would be adjacent to One Ski Hill Place, on land currently owned by Vail Resorts, parent company of Breckenridge Ski Resort.
"This is not a tri-party joint venture," said Nick Dorn, chief operating officer at BGV, trying to clear up some confusion regarding the ownership structure. "I want to make that clear. There's no smoke and mirrors here."
Councilman Mike Dudick, who's co-owner and chief executive officer for BGV, recused himself from the discussions, as he has consistently done while the proposal works its way through council.
Still, the remaining council members openly wondered why Vail Resorts has been noticeably absent from the discussions, and Mark Burke maintained they are a major player in this deal.
In addition to ownership, council members also expressed concerns over the described staffing levels at the hotel, and the impact those additional employees could have on things like traffic, parking and housing.
"However many employees it is … all of those employees have to park somewhere in town to get to work," Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe told the developers.
One key piece of the proposed agreement is that the developers are looking for 60 additional residential and two commercial units of transferrable density rights to add to existing density rights already associated with the site. The ask is historic in its scope, but it's more about condos that would have come with the hotel than it is the hotel itself, which alone could meet the existing density rights but isn't workable without the condos, the developers said.
"If this additional density is not approved, the hotel is not economically viable," Dorn explained. "It's very simple from that standpoint."
The development agreement also sought a small reduction in the number of required parking spaces for the hotel, but if that was a hang-up, the developers were willing to forgo the request.
Addressing council, BGV's director of development Graham Frank and Dorn said the company's gone "above and beyond" trying to detail this project to the town's needs, and they pushed council to approve the agreement on first reading Tuesday with the understanding the proposal would be revised to address any lingering concerns before coming to a vote on second reading.
No dice.
At one point, Councilman Mark Burke asked the developers, in effect, what's the rush? In response, they cited a tight timetable, numerous governmental hoops they still have to clear and their hopes of breaking ground by spring 2019. The developers also said they were hoping to get the document approved so they could push through the process because, like the town, they too are "at a decision point."
Asked about the public benefit of the project, the developers said that, in addition to new jobs, more employee housing, completing the development at the base of Peak 8 and providing lodging accommodations unlike anything that currently exists here, they're are also offering $125,000 for the continued preservation of Cucumber Gulch or some other public benefit to be determined by the town.
"From there, I think it really raises the bar and tells the nation, the world, whoever our guests are that Breckenridge is a four-star destination," Dorn said. "And if we forgo this opportunity, conversely it tells everybody Breckenridge is not a four-star location."
The developers also said they feel as if they've gone "above and beyond," doing everything they can do to answer council's questions, comments or concerns about the project as it continues to take shape. Additionally, with the general consensus of town planners and the town's planning commission, the project fits on the site, they added.
But council still wondered if it would fit the town, and late in the meeting, Mamula told them, "with six people on, you need four affirmative votes or it fails. I'm counting 3-3 right now."
Based on council's comments, it might have been even more skewed against the developers.
"If we do a good-faith vote, the camel's nose is in the tent, and it becomes harder to say no on the second round," Wolfe said. "I want the answers first, please."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Summit County walks back short-term rental ban for backcountry

#Summit County #Colorado
Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

Summit County is considering broad changes to its zoning code for backcountry properties that would include a ban on short-term rentals, but a draft of the new regulations drew vocal pushback from a small but impassioned group of landowners during a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Commissioners voted to table the issue, but the hearing drew clear battle lines between property rights and land preservation.
County staff began working on the changes last year, concerned by some building proposals for backcountry-zoned properties that pushed the envelope on the code's intentionally vague language. While that ambiguity provides leeway for difficult backcountry build sites, some on the countywide planning commission feared it could invite abuses.
"Recently we've started to see more intense proposals which seem to deviate from that purpose and intent," planning director Don Reimer said during the hearing before the Board of County Commissioners. "There are large structures, more impactful structures, some designs that are maybe not consistent with that backcountry character."
A ban on short-term rentals — which wouldn't apply to backcountry ski huts — would be a first for the county government, which unlike Summit's town governments has no rules for listing homes on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. County staff is separately working on short-term rental rules for all unincorporated properties and plans to be finished by April.
The county government has not presented evidence that STRs are currently a problem in the backcountry, but the difficult access to many of those properties could make it unsafe to rent them out for several days at a time to tourists unfamiliar with Summit's rugged areas.
In nearly two hours of public testimony, however, building code changes drew the greatest concern from landowners, who said they've already been chafing under tight zoning restrictions for years.
"For the last 20 years I've been unable to build on my property because of these regulations," said Matt Casey, who owns two mining claim parcels. "I'm one of the people who helped make this community what it is today, and I'm really upset that I can't even build a house on my 21 acres."
Drew Goldsmith, who serves on the Countywide Planning Commission and lives off the grid on a backcountry property, told commissioners that proposed rules covering things like roof pitches and square footage limits were too onerous. The outpouring of concern from landowners during a November planning commission meeting should be reason enough to hold off, he argued.
"It was the largest public showing for any county planning commission meeting I've ever attended," he said. "One-hundred percent of the comments were in opposition to these changes. There were no public comments in favor."
The changes would prevent the construction of gleaming, modern-styled buildings that would stick out like sore thumbs in otherwise pristine backcountry areas, Reimer explained. All in attendance seemed to agree that was a reasonable goal. At issue was the broad scope of the code language, which the landowners said would be an overreach.
"I know you've had some applications recently that have sparked an urgency to make some changes to this code," said longtime local Robin Theobald. "But it's been working here for almost 20 years … so maybe the urgency isn't quite what it feels like."
Like several others who spoke during the hearing, Theobald was skeptical that there is even much of a market for STRs in the backcountry, much less a need to ban them. The areas with short-term rental problems — noise, trash and parking — were in towns, not the backcountry, he said.
The landowners prevailed, for now. The county commissioners declined to put the rules to a vote, choosing instead to push the issue to the March 27 meeting. By then, staff will have come up with a proposal for countywide STR rules.
"There was a reason we left a certain amount of vagueness in these rules, and so I appreciate why that was done," said Commissioner Thomas Davidson. "I also appreciate that if you're a planner, it's kind of difficult to know what you're supposed to do. That's something that I need more time to think about."
Commissioners Karn Stiegelmeier and Dan Gibbs agreed, saying they needed more time to digest the scope of the proposed changes. Stiegelmeier in particular, however, seemed open to new regulations.
"Bottom line, we want to protect the backcountry, not just for people who can afford to build in the backcountry but for all of our community," she said. "And I'm very concerned about safety issues. People coming in doing short-term rentals in neighborhoods where there are good streets and good parking don't seem to understand basic rules. So the idea of having them in the backcountry is very concerning."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Priciest 2017 home sale for Summit County topped $6 million

#Summit County #Colorado
Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

The most expensive home sold in Summit County in 2017 went for $6.1 million. Closing in December, the sale was a fitting bookend for a year that's been described as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sell a home.
On the flip side, 2017 also left many homebuyers in situations where they had to act and act fast to get the property they wanted. Likely, they also had to pay top dollar.
"It's all driven by supply and demand," said Jason Smith, president of the Summit Association of Realtors, a nonprofit group with 580 members.
"I would say buyers are seeing the value in Summit County real estate like they haven't seen it before," he continued, explaining that more people are wanting to own "a piece of Summit County" and it surprises him that more sellers didn't throw their homes into the ring last year.
With the U.S. economy expanding, more people have expendable income and are looking for ways to invest their money and raise their quality of life at the same time, Smith said.
Additionally, he thinks many people who have that extra money want to be in the mountains, and in addition to being the first real stop for skiing west of Denver, Summit County still offers great value compared to what's available in other Colorado resort towns, like Aspen or Vail.
"You can spend less money on different areas," he said, "but they're impossible to get to."
More than the numbers, Smith said the growing desire to own property here, coupled with rising scarcity, is the real story of the 2017 real estate market.
LIV Sotheby's International Reality has 20-plus brokers and handles all spectrums of the real estate market — excluding time-shares — in Summit and Park counties and, to a lesser extent, Chaffee County, said Jack Wolfe, associate broker.
How would he describe the market here on the whole last year?
"I would say 2017 was a once-in-a-generation type of year," he said, adding that, by almost every measure, 2017 was "a very strong year" and he sees no signs of the market slowing down anytime soon.
To support his assessment, Wolfe pointed to three major indicators he uses to keep tabs on the local real estate market: Breckenridge's real estate transfer tax, number of days on the market and price appreciation.
Wolfe said that Breckenridge accounts for roughly 40 percent of the county's total sales volume, and as a result, he believes watching the town's real estate transfer tax is a great way to keep tabs.
According to the town's latest financial figures, the real estate transfer tax finished 18 percent ahead of 2016's total and surpassed the amount it was budgeted for in 2017 by over $1.8 million.
A more subtle indicator, Wolfe also highlighted the average days a home spent on the market last year — reduced by almost one-fifth compared to 2016. He said that's one of the most surprising figures to come out of last year.
"Real estate is selling quicker," Wolfe said. "That's across all properties," including residential housing, luxury homes and commercial properties.
This remains true despite the number of available listings being at a record low, which many industry experts believe is responsible, at least in part, for spiking prices seen throughout 2017.
The Land Title Guarantee Company of Summit County follows transactions recorded by the Summit County Assessor's Office; and with $1.65 billion worth of combined real estate transactions last year, the gross monetary volume was the highest that the company's director of sales and marketing has ever seen it.
Brooke Roberts also hasn't ever seen the inventory of available listings this low before. According to stats compiled by the title company as of Jan. 16, there were only 308 active residential listings and 170 for vacant land.
According to statistics prepared by another real estate agency, Silfer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate, that's down considerably from the more than 2,500 active listings in August 2010.
Also, the gross monetary volume of all real estate transactions was up almost 25 percent in December, and the actual number of transactions was up 13 percent for the month compared to December 2016, Roberts said. This helped Summit County finish the year with the total monetary volume for all real estate sales up 18 percent, while the overall number of transactions increased by 5 percent.
For a snapshot of the residential market, Roberts noted that the price of the average single-family home rose 16 percent compared to last year, but the average price of vacant land was actually down about 8 percent.
As for who's buying the properties, Roberts said that 28 percent last year were locals, about 40 percent came from the Front Range and 32 percent were from out of state. Only 0.4 percent were international.
Silfer, Smith and Frampton also noted that sellers received, on average, 98 percent of their listing price, a figure that has been trending upward since 2010 when sellers, on average, were getting about 86 percent of their asking prices.
Luxury homes are defined as sales at or over $1 million, and the luxury housing market in Summit County saw huge gains in 2017.
Based on the title company's figures, the number of luxury homes sold last year jumped from 225 in 2016 to 342 in 2017. That spike was even more dramatic considering only 198 luxury homes sold in all of 2015.
The most expensive house sold in 2017 was a single-family home on 1.2 acres in the Shock Hill neighborhood in Breckenridge. The deal closed in December for $6.1 million, which was almost half a million dollars more than the most expensive house of 2016.
Additionally, LIV Sotheby's has noticed upticks in the total sales volume, number of listings sold, average price and days on the market for luxury homes in Summit County.
"There's no mistaking that we're in a market that most people haven't ever seen," Wolfe said.
Asked to make a prediction for 2018, Smith said he doesn't expect the federal tax overhaul to have much of an impact on the local market and 2018 should likely be another strong year.
There could be marginally fewer transactions, he said, due to scarcity, but he thinks the overall value of the sales is in for another jump.