Relief may finally be on its way for Frisco residents frustrated with their cellphone service over recent months. Verizon Wireless recently put in an application to construct a new cell tower in town. While a timetable for the new tower is currently up in the air, Verizon says that it's cognizant of the issues plaguing Frisco and is working closely with the town to remedy concerns.
"Our network team is well aware of the issues," said Steven Van Dinter, a media relations representative with Verizon. "They're working on securing a cell site either near or in town that would allow them to provide additional coverage … but that process takes time. There's permitting, rules and regulations. It's not as easy as saying you want to build one and having it appear the next week. We're working through the process, and our network team is doing whatever they can to get a solution there."
Lackluster cell service has been a concern in Summit County for years, but problems escalated this April when there was a seemingly severe drop in coverage in Frisco. Representatives with the town have been in contact with Verizon in regards to the issue for months to try and determine the problem. According to Verizon, the problem is a matter of network traffic, likely due to major increases in people in the county during heavy tourist seasons. Though some town officials are unconvinced by Verizon's explanation, pointing to continued spotty service during the county's offseason.
"We started noticing problems in April," said Vanessa Agee, Frisco's marketing and communications director. "We'd get a call, it would work well for about 30 seconds and then you could hear a person on the other end but they couldn't hear you. Checking email is impossible, there were missed calls and voicemails that would only come through a day or two later. … They said there is no problem, and it's a matter of traffic with a lot more people visiting. But at the end of April and May there aren't. Something has significantly changed."
Van Dinter stood behind the company line, but noted that network traffic is a two-edged sword. He explained that network capacity can be affected by the number of devices connected to a tower at any given time, but also by the amount of data being used on the network at any given time.
He may have a point. According to a study published in June by Ericcson — one of the world's leading information and technology providers that carries 40 percent of the world's mobile traffic through their networks — mobile users are using more data than ever before.
The report, in the first states that quarter of 2018, there was a 54 percent increase in data usage from the first quarter in 2017. While that number may seem large, it's actually smaller than the growth in data traffic over the previous four quarters, which saw growth between 65 and 70 percent. The study also predicts that data (measured by exabytes per month) will increase by almost eight times its current usage in North America by 2023.
The biggest culprate appears to be video. According to Ericcson, video currently makes up more than 50 percent of mobile data traffic, driven by increased viewing time, more embedded videos in other media and the evolution toward higher resolutions.
The report reads, "traffic growth is driven both by the rising number of smartphone subsriptions and increasing average data volume per subscription, fueled primarily by more viewing of video content at increasingly higher resolutions."
For residents and visitors, dropping calls, receiving voicemails a day late or not being able to check their email can undoubtedly be frustrating. But the relative lack of coverage is also a public safety concern. Summit Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Berino said that the coverage is affecting their ability to respond to calls in Frisco as efficiently as they would be able to otherwise.
Berino said that the department utilizes computers in their fire engines that run off mobile hot spots, which give firefighters information about hydrant locations, fire alarm panel locations and building preplans that provide schematics and pertinent information that could help in a fire or emergency situation.
"It's raising concerns for us," said Berino. "It's hampering our abilities to use our technology, which has become a vital link for us. It has caused some hiccups for us. It hasn't resulted in us not finding a location we needed or anything burning down, but we're not able to use the technology that we have as efficiently as we could."
Jerry Del Valle, director of the Summit 911 Center, agreed with Berino's comments.
"We use Verizon to send info to our units out in the field, and that's becoming an issue as well," he said. "We have a luge lack of coverage countywide, but we notice that Frisco has been degrading for some reason … Our biggest concern is people calling in. If we can't hear them we don't know what they're telling us, and it's way harder for us to help them."
In response to a number of complaints from residents in town and the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon submitted an application to construct a new cell tower in late August, tentatively planned to be built atop the Frisco Centre building on Main Street which houses Omni Real Estate and Taqueria At The Clubhouse. Frisco approved the application in September, and approved a modified application earlier this week.
Katie Kent, planner with Frisco, said that the next step is for Verizon to submit building and electric permits to the town and county, as well as receive approval from the property owner and get a license agreement in place. Once the preliminary aspects of the project are in place, construction of the tower should be completed relatively quickly.
"The actual construction doesn't take long," said Van Dinter. "The bigger issue is finding a suitable site that someone is willing to help us build on … We're very aware of this issues, and we're doing whatever we can to get a solution in place. We know it's hard to wait, but it's coming."
Breckenridge Town Council voted unanimously on second reading Tuesday night to set the town's mill levy at 5.07 mills for 2019, the same rate it's been since 2014.
According to town staff, the 5.07 mill levy is the amount the town is authorized to impose and cannot be increased without an election.
For the 2019 budget year, staff are predicting the property tax will generate over $2.9 million in revenue, which is up 1.7 percent over 2018.
Because this is a non-assessment year, a small increase was to be expected, according to staff. However, the following year, revenue should change more dramatically when the Summit County Assessor Office's biannual assessment process is complete.
A plush five-bedroom home with almost 5,000 square feet of space and three-and-a-half bathrooms sold for $4.09 million in October, the priciest residential real estate transaction of the month in Summit County.
The home is nestled in Breckenridge's Shock Hill neighborhood, which often produces some of the most expensive homes in Summit and is within easy walking distance to the gondola. It comes with exposed timber work, copious amounts of natural stone, an extravagant kitchen and high-end finishes, along with an office, two laundry rooms, a rec room and three fireplaces.
Despite the blockbuster deal, Summit County's real estate market saw slowing sales last month, but the decline couldn't stop the annual residential sales volume from eclipsing the $1 billion mark in October for at least the second consecutive year.
The local market has been buoyed by a record-breaking summer, in which local real estate agents sold a higher dollar volume than they ever have before, but the record sales volumes have also been tied to a shortage of available listings, which is in turn blamed for steeply rising housing prices.
According to the Land Title Guarantee Company, there were only 466 residential properties and 185 parcels of vacant land for sale at the beginning of October and 449 residential listings and 168 parcels of vacant land in November.
By contrast, there were over 1,200 available listings in November 2015.
Additionally, the average sales price of a home in Summit County shot up 9 percent to $764,972 looking at just the last three months. Even though total sales volume is up 1 percent year to date, residential transactions are actually down 8 percent with 1,510 total sales compared to 1,639 at the same time last year.
Most real estate firms use multiple-listing data to produce regular market reports. The data is a highly reliable method for measuring changes in the market, but the numbers don't always line up perfectly with property records on file at the Summit County Assessor's Office because of different reporting mechanisms. Still, both measures are showing the same trend.
According to the assessor's office, the county saw 286 property transactions worth $151 million combined in October 2015. The same month the following year, the number of sales dropped to 264. It shot back up to 324 in 2017, but then fell again to just 235 this year even though the sales volume was over $182 million.
At the same time, land sales are nearly even with last year, with 146 so far in 2018 compared to 140 at the end of October 2017.
Additionally, the luxury market — defined as housing sales at or over $1 million — continues to do well locally with 39 luxury homes selling in October and bringing the total number sold this year to 261, which represents a 9 percent increase in luxury transactions from 12 months ago.
December's First Friday festivities Dec. 7 in Silverthorne will celebrate the holiday season with the town's first-ever tree lighting in front of the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center.
Additionally, the First Friday celebration will feature holiday carolers, photos with Santa, hot chocolate and "Story Time on the Go" at Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea, which will be serving up tasty treats. The night will conclude with a Bad Santa party at Angry James Brewery. A schedule of events is below. For more info, go to Silverthorne.org.
• 4:30–5:30 p.m. — Gather to enjoy holiday carolers and family-friendly activities, as well as hot chocolate and treats provided by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
• 5:30 p.m. — Holiday tree lighting ceremony begins
• 5:30–7:30 p.m. — Photos with Santa inside the Silverthorne Pavilion
• 6–7 p.m. — "Story Time on the Go" at Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea with holiday treats and crafts
• 8–10 p.m. — Bad Santa Party at Angry James Brewery
The Thanksgiving opening for Breckenridge Ski Resort's Imperial Express SuperChair — the highest chairlift in North America — was the earliest opening in the lift's 14-year history.
"Opening the Imperial Express this early is yet another impressive indication of the incredible early season that Breckenridge is experiencing," said John Buhler, Breckenridge's vice president and chief operating officer. "This is one of the best starts to the season I've seen during my 25 years in Breckenridge."
Breckenridge's Imperial Express reaches 12,840 feet to the top of the resort's Imperial Bowl terrain near the 12,998-foot summit of Peak 8. Via Imperial Express, skiers and riders can also access two other high-alpine bowl areas as well as hike-to access to the Lake Chutes, Snow White, Whale's Tail and the Peak 7 Bowl areas.
In comparison, last year Breckenridge opened the Imperial Express on Jan. 16. Since 2005, the Imperial Express has only opened in November two other times, with seven December openings and two January openings.
In addition to the Imperial Express, Breckenridge also on Thursday opened E-Chair, which provides access to advanced and expert runs near tree line on Peak 9.
The opening of the Imperial SuperChair and E-Chair follows other milestones, including Breckenridge kicking off the season early on Nov. 7 with the earliest opening date in more than a decade, and opening the T-Bar and 6-Chair earlier than any other season in the last 10 years. In terms of snowfall the resort has already received more than 7 feet of snow since mid-October, with more snow in the forecast this weekend.
The resort will continue to open up new terrain as soon as it's ready, and Peak 7 is the next major area of terrain that is anticipated to open at the resort. As of Friday afternoon, Breckenridge had nearly 1,300 skiable acres open across the Back Bowls, Peaks 8 and 9, and one trail on Peak 7: Lower Forget Me Not.
Vail Resorts' also announced this week that it has extended its deadline to purchase an Epic Pass to Sunday, Dec. 2.
Winter weather has arrived, which can mean extremely dangerous road conditions for motorists driving through the mountains. If you've driven up the I-70 corridor during a storm lately, you've likely noticed signs about traction and chain laws going into effect.
But what exactly do they mean?
Traction laws are put in place when conditions on the roadway become dangerous due to winter weather like snow, ice and wind, and can be issued by Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Department of Transportation and even snowplow drivers who notice hazardous roads on their routes. The goal is not only to protect drivers without the proper vehicles or tires, but also to avoid any major pileups or road closures due to unprepared drivers.
"Clearly I-70 is a main artery in Colorado for freight trucks, passenger vehicles and people coming up to ski," said Tracy Trulove, spokeswoman for CDOT. "We find that when people are prepared and drive for the conditions, slowing down to get where they're going, the conditions can be navigated. It's the people in a hurry, not prepared to drive in these conditions or not used to driving in a Colorado winter that end up in a ditch or causing a chain reaction on the highway."
There are two different types of laws that can come into place during extreme weather conditions: the traction law and the passenger vehicle chain law. The traction law, which is typically enacted with commercial chain laws, requires tires on all cars to have at least 1/8 of an inch of tread. Additionally, all non-four-wheel drive vehicles must be fitted with either snow tires or tires with a mud and snow (M+S) designation.
CDOT recommends using the "quarter test" to determine the size of the treads on your tires. Simply insert a quarter into the tread with George Washington's head going in first. If the top of Washington's head is covered by the tread, the tires are acceptable. The test should be done around different areas of the tire, and if the top of the head is visible at any point, new tires are required.
If weather conditions are especially treacherous, the passenger vehicle chain law may go into effect, requiring every vehicle on the roadway to have chains or an alternative traction device like AutoSocks. Trulove noted that passenger chain laws are rarely instituted, and typically occur before a road is closed entirely.
"We'll use it if we're not able to keep up with the snow, and we're not able to keep the highway safe with just the traction law," explained Trulove. "Most times we're pretty close to closing roads right afterwards if we enact the passenger chain law."
Despite signs and warnings on social media during storms, traction laws are often ignored, either because motorists are ignorant of their meaning or because they're overly confident of their winter driving abilities.
"It's a dynamic environment," said Colin Remillard, public information officer with the Colorado State Patrol. "People have to understand that this is a high-alpine environment, and the weather can change rapidly. If you're not prepared you're not going to be able to safely travel up here. You become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. I would say that with a large storm, there's people ignoring the laws every time. Whether it's chain laws for trucks, or tourists in rental cars, there's at least a few in every major storm."
Trulove said that the potential punishments for failing to follow traction laws range from $130 to more than $650 in fines depending on the severity of the storm, and why you got pulled over. In other words, if you simply get pulled over with inadequate tires you'll likely receive a fine on the lower end. But if you cause a pileup or chain reaction that shuts down the highway, your fine will be much heftier.
Aside from fines, failing to adhere to traction laws can lead to major traffic delays and serious headaches for motorists.
"If you have a bunch of cars that can't get up the hill it plugs everything up," said Remillard. "When you're stuck on the road there are not a whole lot of places to go. When people ignore or are ignorant of those rules it can jam up this county pretty good."
Officials with CDOT recommend that drivers in the area invest in a set of snow tires, and say that all-season tires typically aren't sufficient in the mountains. At 60 miles per hour on snowy pavement, snow tires need about 310 feet to stop, while all-season tires require more than 660 feet to stop.
Additionally, CDOT recommends leaving extra room between your vehicle and others on the road when it's snowing, taking things slow and giving snow plows plenty of space to work. CDOT also has several resources to help travelers navigate tricky conditions more easily. COTrip.org gives updates on road conditions, closures and even gives realtime updates of where snow plows are operating.
CDOT also recommends keeping a winter driving vehicle kit in your car complete with blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel and food. If you're stuck inside your car in a serious storm, officials say not to leave your car, run the engine periodically and wait for help. But perhaps most importantly, officials warn that if you're not experienced driving in the snow, trying your luck during a storm is a bad idea.
"People who haven't outfitted their cars with the proper tires might want to rethink being up in the corridor," said Trulove. "And if you don't have experience driving in the Colorado winter, it's probably not a good time to get experience."
More Americans are using real estate agents to buy and sell their home than ever before, even among the younger generations.
A new Harris Insights housing consumer study, which was underwritten by the California Association of Realtors, The CE Shop and REAL Trends, shows a full 90% of consumers use real estate agents to buy and sell their homes.
This is a survey high, and is up 5 percentage points from the last study in 2014 and up 9 percentage points from the first study conducted in 2001. The study asked the opinions of 1,000 people who had either bought or sold a home in the last six months.
And despite fears that Millennials are replacing real estate agents with technology, the study found that is not the case, and 91% of those ages 18 to 34 used real estate agents in their transaction. That number is slightly higher among Gen Xers, or those ages 35 to 44 years old, at 94%.
Actually, it’s the older generations that are cutting real estate agents out of the picture as just 81% of those ages 55 and older reported using a real estate agent in their transaction.
The study also found that more educated consumers are more likely to use a real estate agent, 94% of those with a college degree used agents in their transaction. Those with only a high school diploma used agents at a rate of 83%.
Higher income earners were also more likely to use real estate agents. About 79% of those who made $50,000 a year or less used an agent, while those who made between $75,000 and $100,000 used agents in 98% of the cases.
If the need for real estate agents is increasing – what are consumers looking for when it comes to selecting their agent? “Referrals from people I trust” garnered the highest response from consumers on what was most important when selecting their real estate agent.
About 69% of consumers said this was either extremely important or very important, while 92% said it was important.
Next in importance was “findings agents who had listings like my home” at 64%, followed by “looking at websites with ratings of agent’s performances” at 62%. In fourth place was “having a personal relationship with the agent” at 57%.
The study also found that consumers value agents who are members of a Realtor organization, as this was the fifth most important factor at 52%.
But while technology does not seem like it will replace real estate agents any time soon, it is playing an increasingly important role in the home buying and selling process.
A full 92% of consumers reported looking at websites for information about real estate agents, and this number was even higher for younger generations. Millennials reported using websites 96% of the time.
The top websites used to look up real estate agents, in this order, were realtor.com, Zillow, Google and Facebook.
Should online travel companies have to pay accommodation taxes in places like Breckenridge?
That's one of many questions that the Colorado Supreme Court will have on their plate early next year, after granting a writ of certiorari to the town of Breckenridge to determine whether or not the Colorado Court of Appeals erred in holding that online travel companies are not required to pay Breckenridge's accommodation taxes.
In 2016, Breckenridge brought a case against 16 online travel companies including Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline.com, Hotwire Inc. and a number of other notable fixtures in the industry. The town asserted that the companies are required under town code to collect and remit accommodation and sales taxes to the town on hotel rooms booked through their websites. The district court disagreed, and the case was taken to the court of appeals.
But Breckenridge didn't have any better luck at the appellate level, as the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the holding of the district court despite the town's assertions that the court erred in determining that the companies were not "renters" or "lessors," that the court misapplied the summary judgment standard, that its sales tax claim shouldn't have been dismissed and that its motion for class action certification should have been granted.
In August, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Breckenridge contends that the companies are renters or lessors under the code because they essentially sell the right to use hotel rooms, and that the code doesn't require a person to have physical possession of the right sold. The companies maintain that they're technology companies that act as intermediaries between purchaser and hotels.
The code states: "The legislative intent of the town council in enacting this chapter is that every person who, for consideration, leases or rents any hotel room, motel room, or other accommodation located in the town shall pay and every person who furnishes for lease or rental any such accommodation shall collect the tax imposed by this chapter."
The town imposes a 3.4 percent tax on the price paid for leasing or renting a room. But the court of appeals noted that physical possession is inherent in the meaning of renting and leasing, and because the hotels maintain possession of the rooms the companies are essentially working as brokers, meaning they're not subjected to the tax.
"Since the (companies) had no possessory interest and were not engaged in the business of owning, operating, or leasing, and could not independently grant customers access to rooms, they could not be liable for collecting and remitting taxes," wrote Graham.
The town also contended that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the accommodation tax claim, saying that issues of material fact exist as to whether the companies acquire inventory, whether they provide customer service and the extent to which hotels are involved in online transactions.
Breckenridge asserts that it provided evidence that the companies do acquire inventory, pointing to reports prepared by the Securities and Exchange Commission where the companies allegedly admit to acquiring inventory. The town also said that taxable transactions arise when the the companies accept a customer's payment in exchange for the right to use the accommodation, and that a customer's entire interaction is with the online travel company.
The court found that SEC filings refer primarily to the hotels' inventory, and that the other arguments were immaterial because they didn't indicate possessory interest.
The opinion reads: "Because no genuine issue of material fact was presented, summary judgment was appropriate."
Breckenridge initially brought the case against the companies hoping to recover both unpaid accommodation and sales taxes. However, the district court found that Breckenridge had no cause of action in respect to the sales tax claim because the town failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before taking the issue to court.
On appeal Breckenridge argued that it wasn't required to exhaust its own administrative remedies because it would be futile, and a question of law not subjected to exhaustion requirements. Again the court disagreed.
The town also argued that the district court abused its discretion by denying its request for class certification with 55 other Colorado communities with similar ordinances levying a lodger's or accommodation tax.
According to the opinion, Breckenridge was able to satisfy all four prerequisites to grant a class certification, wherein a large group is represented in a lawsuit collectively. However, the certification was denied on the grounds that Breckenridge was primarily seeking monetary damages, and that the 55 other municipalities utilized "at least 20 different standards to determine who is obligated to collect and remit accommodation tax," meaning that the court couldn't use a single test to determine liability for each municipality.
COLORADO SUPREME COURT
On Aug. 20, the Colorado Supreme Court announced that it would grant Breckenridge's petition for writ of certiorari. According to the announcement, the court will determine whether the court of appeals erred in holding that the companies are not required to collect Breckenridge's accommodation tax under the town's code, but will not hear arguments on the other issues detailed by the court of appeals.
The case will remain in briefing until early January, meaning that oral arguments won't be heard until at least the early months of 2019.
After removing a mountain lion kitten from a private home, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding the public it is illegal to possess wild animals and dangerous to the animals' health, according to a CPW news release.
Although sick from being fed bratwurst, the kitten appeared to be in good health otherwise, said Travis Sauder, CPW district wildlife manager, after he retrieved the kitten and sent it to the nonprofit Wet Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation in Wetmore.
But the incident could have turned out much differently since the kitten, estimated by wildlife biologists to be under six months of age, was fed human food when it probably was not yet weaned from its mother's milk and may have only eaten regurgitated solids from its mother.
“If you find wildlife you believe to be orphaned, leave the area immediately and call CPW," Sauder said. "By leaving the area, mom will feel safe to come back and retrieve her young.
"Many animals intentionally leave their young behind when startled, relying on the built-in camouflage of the youngsters' spotted fur to keep them safe. The mother will then return to retrieve its young once the area is safe."
The people in possession of the kitten published photos Monday on social media showing it in a cage. They claimed they found it in a snowbank after a snowplow passed by. They also claimed they released it back to the wild after allowing it to "thaw out." In fact, Sauder collected the kitten from their home in Walsenburg on Tuesday. He then transported it to the rehab center.
"Wild animals do not need to 'thaw out' because they are equipped by nature to survive cold and snow," Sauder said. "When we do have orphaned wildlife, it’s important we get them to licensed rehabilitators who specialize in raising these wild animals, who know what to feed them and how to care for them so we can successfully release them back into the wild once they mature."
Sauder said this kitten was kept far too long by humans to return to where it was found.
"It had been almost 30 hours since it was picked up Monday and its mom would not be in the area any longer," he said. "This is why it’s vital to leave baby wildlife where you find them and call us immediately.”
For more information, go to cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeSpring.
It will be a holiday open on Thursday for the Frisco Adventure Park tubing hill and the Frisco Nordic Center.
The Frisco Adventure Park tubing hill will subsequently be open four days a week — excluding Tuesday and Wednesday — until Dec. 20, when the hill will be open seven days a week through Jan. 7. The hill will go back to its five-day-a-week schedule from Jan. 8 until March 7, when the hill will again be open for seven days a week until March 25.
Early season hours at the tubing hill are 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., with one-hour tubing sessions starting every 15 minutes from opening until 5 p.m. From Dec. 22 through Jan. 5, there will be extended holiday hours, with the hill opening daily at 9 a.m. Tubing is $26 per hour and each additional hour of tubing is $10, although during holidays — from Dec. 20 to Jan. 6, Jan. 19-21 and Feb. 16-18 — tubing is $30 per hour and each additional hour of tubing is $30. Riders must be at least 36 inches tall. Reservations are required.
Skiing and snowshoeing at the Nordic Center will also open with a limited number of trails on Thanksgiving Day, with more trails opening as conditions allow.
"Mother Nature certainly has been smiling on us with better early season conditions than we have seen in a few years," said Katie Barton, the Frisco Adventure Park's general manager. "We are looking forward to unveiling this year's tubing lanes and showing off our cross-country ski terrain on Thanksgiving Day. At this point, Nov. 22 and 23 are already sold out at the tubing hill, but we still have reservations available for tubing fun on Saturday and Sunday."
The beginner ski/ride hill at the Frisco Adventure Park will open for the season on Jan. 10, and ski and ride lessons with Copper Mountain Resort instructors will be available starting Jan. 13.
NEW RACE SERIES
This year the nordic center is also launching the "Up & At 'Em Ski Race Series," which will feature five Nordic races on Wednesdays at 7 a.m. in December, January and February.
Classic skiing races will take place on Jan. 9 and Feb. 6, while skate skiing races will take place on Dec. 19, Jan. 23 and Feb. 20. Pre-registration for each race is $20, and day-of registration is $25. Participants who register for the entire series ($80) by Jan. 9, 2019, will receive a travel coffee mug. Registration does not include ski rentals, though discounted ski rentals are available for $10 for all racers. Registration will include a coffee and a grab-and-go breakfast after each race.
Registration is also currently open for a number of ski clinics and events at the Nordic center, including women's skate ski clinics, general skate ski clinics, classic ski clinics, community Nordic workouts, youth Sunday Nordic programs, Frisco Gold Rush, Eat Ski and Be Merry and Frisco BrewSki. Further clinic, event and registration information is available at FriscoNordic.com. Daily Nordic center trail passes for those between the ages of 13-64 are $25, while seniors (65+) are $20 and children 12-and-under are free. Season and punch passes are also currently available for purchase at FriscoNordic.com.
The adventure park also started offering their dinner and hot cocoa sleigh rides, and will remain open until April 6, weather permitting. During holiday peak time from Dec. 15 to Jan. 5, sleigh rides will run seven days per week. During non-peak times, sleigh rides run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Reservations are required. The park also offers private group sleigh rides, featuring draft mules. More information and reservations are available at DinnerSleighRides.com.
If you own numerous residential properties in Summit just to list them as short-term rentals, and have been paying the residential property tax rate on all of them, the good times of lower taxes might be at an end. The county is considering a new property assessment policy that will require owners of multiple residential properties to pay commercial rates on nearly all the homes they are using purely for profit.
Outgoing county assessor Beverly Breakstone floated the idea during the county commissioner's work session early this week. Breakstone said that residential property values in the county are as healthy as they've ever been. In most places outside of Colorado, higher residential property values would normally mean more property tax revenue for government to provide services.
However, due to the Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado constitution, the government is actually hurt by rapidly accelerating residential property values. Gallagher requires the state to maintain a certain ratio between residential and commercial property tax revenue. If residential property value starts rising faster statewide than commercial value, a mechanism kicks in to maintain the ratio by lowering the rate at which residential property can be taxed.
The net result of the Gallagher Amendment since it was passed in 1982 is for assessment rates on residential property to plummet by two-thirds as residential values have skyrocketed with a growing population. That has significantly hurt the local government and school district's ability to collect tax revenue as costs for government services continue to rise.
Breakstone said that the shortfall in revenue is especially bad in Summit, where property values have been accelerating at a geometric rate over the decades while the assessment rate continues to drop, resulting in millions in lost revenue.
Compounding the revenue problem, as well as the housing shortage, is the fact that wealthier people have been buying up residential properties for the sole purpose of renting them out for profit, but only pay the lower residential assessment rate. Breakstone said that it had been irking her for years.
"When your average single family home is priced at $700,000, it presents challenges for people who work here and need a place to live," Breakstone said. "That encourages more second-homeowners with a lot of money to come and invest in property, but who don't actually live here. I personally take offense with people who come to stay here at one home once every three years, while renting them out for income the rest of the time. If you're running a commercial enterprise, you should pay the commercial rate."
Breakstone said there are some actors who are particularly egregious in exploiting residential assessment rates.
"There are a lot of people who buy 10 condos, or five single-family homes, and list them all on BRBO," Breakstone said. "But they're only paying the residential rate."
As one of her final acts as county assessor, she would provide incoming assessor Frank Celico a list of property owners who have been taking advantage of the tax rate. She said she would put it up to Celico to decide whether he'd want to start cracking down on these unfair actors.
While the specifics of how enforcement would work were not quite clear, the basic idea is to find out which property owners have multiple residential units and cross-reference them to short-term rental sites to see if they are just being used as rental properties.
If it does seem a property owner is using homes solely as piggy banks, the county will then send the owner of the properties a notice requiring them to designate one of their properties as their "second home," which would be taxed with the residential assessment rate, while charging the commercial assessment rate on all other properties.
This policy might go a long way to recouping revenue that is lost to owners unfairly exploiting the residential assessment rate, as well as providing less incentive to people with deep pockets to snap up residential properties just to make money off them, perhaps stabilizing the eye-popping rent costs in the county.
Contrary to the idea that the county is trying to unfairly raise taxes on some, Breakstone said the policy would actually strengthen the notion of fair taxation for all, and apply the same rules to everyone across the board.
"When you're in the taxation business, the core values to maintain are to be fair and equitable to all," Breakstone said. "If you can't be fair or equitable, you lose trust in the entire notion of taxation. It isn't fair or equitable for people with many short-term rental properties to pay a residential tax rate when it's a commercial enterprise."
The Town of Breckenridge has confirmed that it is in discussions with Dambo to rebuild the troll. “We are in communication with the artist about rebuilding Isak at one of some locations we had talked about in previous meetings,” said Haley Littleton, Town of Breckenridge spokesperson. “We are looking to put a group together to work through this. It will take some time to talk through all the logistics, so we don’t know about an exact timeline.”
Littleton added that the town had managed to remove the troll without much damage, giving Dambo the opportunity to restore Isak as he was originally built.
“I think we are happy we were able to remove isak and save the key pieces, and we’re excited for the next step,” Littleton said.
Original story below:
Thomas Dambo, the Danish artist and creator of recently-dismantled Breckenridge trail troll “Isak Heartstone,” claimed in posts on social media that the troll had been “saved,” and that the Town of Breckenridge had offered a few sites to completely rebuild Isak in the spring.
Dambo said the town had offered two locations, the Illinois Trail behind the Breckenridge Ice Arena or the River Trail near Breckenridge Recreation Center.
Dambo also claimed a person named Nicole had managed to sneak into the site where Isak’s remains are being stored and “salvage” the heartstone which was his namesake.
Here Dambo’s Instagram post with the announcement.
🤗❤🤗 Isak Heartstone has been saved!!!! After massive protests, thousands of mails and messages, the city council finally heard us!!! Nicole from Breckenridge was able to break through the fence and salvage Isak’s ❤ Heartstone. The city took him gently apart, and once the snow melts, I will be back to rebuild him in a new location. The city has given me some locations close to Isak’s original home in Breckenridge where they think a stone loving troll will thrive and enjoy life. 1) Illinois Creek behind the Ice Arena or 2) Along the River Trail near the Rec Center ... or maybe YOU have a better suggestion? #Isakheartstone#breckenridge#recycledwood#wood
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun expected existing-home sales will finish 2018 with 5.345 million transactions, down from last year’s 5.51 million, and he predicted next year’s sales will increase by 1 percent to 5.4 million. Yun also expected the national median existing-home price is expected to rise to approximately $266,800 in 2019, a 3.1 percent increase from this year, with the price going further to $274,000.
“Ninety percent of markets are experiencing price gains while very few are experiencing consistent price declines,” said Yun. “The year 2017 was best year for home sales in 10 years, and 2018 is only down 1.5 percent year to date. Statistically, it is a mild twinge in the data and a very mild adjustment compared to the long-term growth we’ve been experiencing over the past few years.”
But Yun added that his forecasts were predicated on an increase in home production.
“All indications are that we have a housing shortage,” Yun continued. “If you look at population growth and job growth, it is clear that we are not producing enough houses.”
On the bigger picture, Yun defined the national economy as “good” with record low unemployment and increasing wages.
“This type of activity in the economy should support the housing market, even as interest rates rise,” said Yun.
VAIL — With more than 4 feet of natural snowfall last week and cold temperatures helping with snowmaking conditions, Vail and Beaver Creek mountains will join other Colorado resorts in opening early for the 2018-19 season.
Vail, originally slated to open Friday, Nov. 16, will open for the season on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 9 a.m. Beaver Creek will open Saturday, Nov. 17, four days ahead of its scheduled Nov. 21 opening date.
Vail will open with skiing and riding out of both Vail Village and Lionshead with more than 500 skiable acres and access to seven lifts:
Eagle Bahn Gondola (#19)
Born Free Express Lift (#8)
Avanti Express (#2)
Wildwood Express Lift (#3)
Mountain Top Express Lift (#4)
Little Eagle Lift (#15)
Beaver Creek will open with more than 220 beginner and intermediate skiable acres with access to four lifts:
Centennial Express (#6)
Cinch Express (#8)
Red Buffalo Express (#5)
Haymeadow Express Gondola (#1)
Beaver Creek will have top-to-bottom access via Cinch Express, as well as the beginner terrain in Red Buffalo Park. Opening Day festivities include a special Cookie Time in the morning.Vail will offer top-to-bottom skiing and riding through Lionshead Village as well as upload and download access to the Mid-Vail area via Gondola One. Complimentary breakfast burritos and hot cocoa will also be available for early risers. (At Vail, the Golden Peak base area and Riva Bahn Express Lift are a designated race training area only.
Slow down, cowboy
All skiers and snowboarders are reminded that they must observe all posted signs, closures and slow zones, especially during the early-season. Closed trails may contain hazards due to early snow coverage. Accessing closed terrain is a violation of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and will result in the loss of skiing privileges and could involve prosecution and a fine.
We are thrilled to be kicking off the 2018-19 season by opening early and truly setting the tone for the season to come at both Vail and Beaver Creek,” said Doug Lovell, Vail chief operating officer. “This is the first time we’ve been able to open both resorts early in more than 10 years. We owe a big thank you to our mountain operations teams for their hard work in making this possible for our loyal guests and season pass holders.”
Passes and Parking
Epic Pass: The last chance to purchase the 2018-19 Epic Pass is by Sunday, Nov. 18. The pass provides access to more than 65 resorts in eight countries and costs $949. The entire lineup of passes is available for purchase at http://www.epicpass.com.
Parking at Beaver Creek: Parking is $10 per day at the Bear and Elk lots at Beaver Creek, and complimentary after 1 p.m. A 10-day punch pass is available for $75 at ticket offices in the village. Free shuttle service is provided from each lot. For more information regarding parking, call 970-949-4911.