Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mountain Town News


Thin majority supports Olympics for Tahoe

LAKE TAHOE, Nev./Calif.—The push continues in the Reno-Lake Tahoe for a bid to host the Winter Olympics. A poll commissioned by proponents found that 51 percent of those surveyed support the idea of Reno and Lake Tahoe hosting a future Olympics, while 31 percent do not. The remaining 18 percent are unsure, reports the Associated Press. Squaw Valley, which is in that same general area, hosted the Olympics in 1960, unleashing a great deal of development. Much of the existing infrastructure dates from the 1950s and 1960s. Hosting the Olympics, say some supporters, would trigger infrastructure improvements.

They're talking tolls on roads in lots of places

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Interstate 70 isn't the only place where the idea of a toll road is being talked about. The last two miles of the highway into Telluride is owned by the town, which is finding its real estate transfer tax, although very large, still insufficient to carry the load of major infrastructure work. One of the key projects is maintenance of that road, and the task won't come cheap. "Whether or not it has a year or two left in it before it becomes the Santa Fe Trail is mostly a function of weather at this point," says Frank Bell, the town manager. Among the ideas that he and Mayor Stu Fraser mentioned in a recent interview with The Telluride Watch is the idea of applying tolls. Just how serious they are about the idea wasn't clear, but one blogger on the newspaper's Web site had a succinct reaction: absolutely terrible idea.

Jackson Hole may close door on gated subdivisions

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.—The planning commission for Teton County has recommended that new gated communities be barred. A staff planner says there are anywhere from 5 to 20 gated communities in Teton County. One of those gated developments, a place called Teton Pines, is the declared primary home of Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide, in an editorial, concurs with the recommended ban. "Gated subdivisions create an 'us and them' environment, an atmosphere alien to Jackson Hole," says the newspaper in an editorial. "Gates in Jackson Hole should be used to keep the cows in. That's all."

One dissenting voice is from a planning commissioner Joe Palmer. "I can think of people who would need a gated community," he said. "So I don't think it's wise to forbid them."

Vail still shopping for an affordable housing partner

VAIL, Colo.—Vail's town council is still looking for a partner to redevelop Timber Ridge, the 198-apartment complex located on the north side of Interstate 70, across from Cascade Village. Timber Ridge is the town's largest affordable housing complex, and it would have gone into the private sector, presumably to be developed for the high-end market, had town officials not stepped in to buy in 2003.The town still owes $22 million on the property, and maintenance costs are substantial.

But the town has now talked with three potential partners in the redevelopment, and found all proposals lacking. First was Corum Real Estate Group, then Vail Resorts and, most recently, a development company from Dallas that is working on plans to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure, located across I-70. The rental units are currently leased for use by employees of Vail Resorts. The town would like to see the land redeveloped, probably with a mixture of market rate and most assuredly affordable housing.

Durango loses bed base, but tourism still growing

DURANGO, Colo.—The tourism business continues to grow in Durango, even as the city loses hotel and motel rooms, some 350 of them altogether in the last five years. Tourism officials believe there are about 1,700 rooms available.

One motel is being converted into condominiums, and another into a pharmacy, and so on down the strip. Room rates vary tremendously, from $30 per night in mid-winter to up to $300 in summer, the busiest season in Durango, owing in part to the narrow gauge railroad and also to the proximity of Mesa Verde National Park.

Al Harper, owner of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, says he'd like to see about 1,000 more rooms. "We hear about 'Well, we can't do this or that because the airlines won't come,' but if you don't have the facilities for tourism, the airlines aren't going to come. The hotel developers see the need and something's going to happen, but even in a perfect world, we're a year and a half away with the city planning processes," he said.

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