Friday, February 22, 2008

Mountain Town News


School called because of snow-clogged roads

TRUCKEE, Calif.—In the Truckee-Lake Tahoe area of California, students have received three snow days so far this year, pushing classes into mid-June. The last two cancellations, school officials tell the Sierra Sun, have been caused by roads that had become too narrow for students to wait safely at bus stops. "The buses also would not be able to travel on the narrow roadways," said Nanette Rondeau, director of transportation in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

Telluride claims first LEEDhouse in Western Colorado

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Certification by LEED, as in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was expanded last year to include single-family homes. Before, it had been limited to offices, schools, and other public buildings, but also to residential complexes, such as a base village at California's Northstar ski area and an on-mountain restaurant at Aspen.

Only three homes have been certified in Colorado under the new program, and the first one on the Western Slope, where nearly all the ski areas are located, is at Telluride. The home has a silver rating, which is the second highest of four categories.

The home has a deck made of mahogany wood certified as sustainability harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council. It has blown-foam insulation, reducing heat loss, and most appliances are Energy Star-rated for efficiency.

Yet LEED is still not-quite mainstream, even in places like Telluride, where the lowest single-family home sold last year fetched nearly $1.1 million.

"LEED is a great idea," said Ben Humphrey of One Architects, "but the weakest link is the subcontractors and the contractors. It comes down to communication with the contractors and their excitement about being part of the green building movement."

Tackling the same subject, a magazine called Ski Area Management found that experts discount the notion that "green" building are more expensive. A LEED-certified building designed to minimize its environmental impact need cost no more than about 3 percent than more than other buildings, building experts said. What is undeniable is that "green" homes cost less in following years, because of generally improved energy efficiency.

Important in designing a green home, experts told the magazine, is for the architects, builders and developers to hold meetings at the outset, as the most important aspects of green building must be incorporated into building design.

Gunnison unsure it wants thin-air testing

GUNNISON, Colo.—At 8,000 feet, the Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport is attractive to aeronautical companies wanting to test aircraft in thinner air. The valley is broad and the air is mostly calm.

Boeing has tested there in the past, and last summer QuinetiQ, a London-based defense contractor, tested a new rendition of its Sea King helicopter. The blades being tested may well be used in military operations in Afghanistan.

That recent testing resulted in $1.6 million being infused into the local economy by testers and support personnel. Still, county officials are questioning whether they want to market the county airport as a venue for high-altitude testing.

One issue, reports the Crested Butte News, is noise. While some have argued that people who move close to airports should expect noise, County Commissioner Hap Channell says it may be another thing to expect helicopter testing at 6 a.m.

Another issue, according to some local residents, is whether Gunnison wants to accommodate aircraft used in military operations. "It really turns me off that our community is part of the war machine," said one activist, Vikki Roach Archuleta.

Others, however, see that as a positive. "If you want to put a patriotic spin on it, what we are testing here will have a direct effect in Afghanistan," said test pilot Mark Purvis.

Town, developer spar about housing timeline

PARK CITY, Utah—City officials and developers of high-end housing at Deer Valley are reported to be at odds. The cause of the friction is the city's requirement for affordable housing. The developer, Talisker Deer Valley, took over the property at an old mining site called Empire Pass in 2003. City building officials have stopped issuing permits based on the insufficiency of worker housing. The city planning commission wants Talisker to post $2.2 million to guaranteed the worker housing gets built, and it also wants a hastened effort to deliver affordable housing, reports The Park Record.

LA-Mammoth flights now considered 'highly likely'

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif.—The Sheet reports that "it now seems highly probable" that the Federal Aviation Administration will clear commercial air service between Los Angeles and Mammoth for next winter.

Horizon Airlines, which also services Ketchum/Sun Valley, wants to begin twice daily flights. The FAA's Chuck Cox, who is overseeing the environmental impact statement, said there appear to be no significant environmental issues.

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