Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mountain Town News

Aspen responds to poisonings

ASPEN, Colo. -- Aspen and Pitkin County are rapidly moving to adopt stricter laws mandating installment of carbon monoxide detectors in homes in the wake of the deaths of a family of four from Denver that had been staying at a home near Aspen during Thanksgiving.

A private engineering firm hired by the Pitkin County Sheriff's Department cited a "combination of errors" in the home's mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as the possible cause of the spread of the deadly, odorless gas.

The city and county both began requiring carbon monoxide detectors in new homes and other buildings in 2003. This week the city announced detectors must now be located outside each sleeping area of a new home. City and council officials, reports The Aspen Times, are considering a requirement to retrofit older, existing homes with carbon monoxide devices.

Tahoe casino goes smoke-free

LAKE TAHOE, Nev. -- Can casinos on the Nevada side of the border at Lake Tahoe tell their customers to butt out? One already has.

"This was a pure business decision," explained Scott Tate, general manager of the Fernley Nugget, which opened Nov. 5. He told the Tahoe Daily News that smokers have access to a patio. "I'm not a proponent of a smoke-free environment as much as I'm a proponent of choice," he said.

Other casino operators, however, aren't ready to ban smoking, which is still legal at casinos in Nevada. From a personal view, I would be all for it, but I don't want to be the first kid on the block to try it," said Bill Wood, general manager of the Crystal Bay Casino.

Vail legal notices go Web-only

VAIL, Colo. -- Vail's town government has decided to forego publishing the full text of laws in the Vail Daily and instead post the laws on the town's website. The move will save the town $20,000, town officials say. The Vail Daily's publisher, Steve Pope, argues that the change is a bad one. He contends it is "unreasonable to expect that the common person" will regularly visit the town's website, whereas 90 percent of local residents scan his newspaper.

Vail resorts aim for next-gen skiers

VAIL, Colo. -- From all the construction cranes in Vail, you wouldn't know a major recession is underway. A new Four Seasons hotel is rapidly rising, as is a condominium project called Solaris. Both were conceived during summer economic times during the last decade, but with each one requiring a number of years to get approvals, financing, or both.

Meanwhile, Vail Resorts seems to foresee an end to this recession. For several years it has been acquiring property in parcel on the fringes of the main resort areas. There, it intends to construct a new gondola to Vail Mountain and create a major, 11-acre project called Ever Vail.

John Garnsey, co-president of the company's mountain division, told a group in Vail recently that Ever Vail represents his company's effort to create a real-estate product for people who are now in the 25- to 35-year-old range.

"Vail is the best ski mountain and the best ski town," he said. "But everyone is trying to figure out how to capture the next generation. We're going to be left at the curb if we don't, and Ever Vail will help us do that."

The company is investing heavily in new, green-thinking designs. Company officials in the past have said they intend to create a project able to get platinum designation, the highest of four levels of certification under the LEED program.

The Vail Daily reports that two traditional issues, affordable housing and parking, worry town officials as they inspect the company's plans for the $1.5 billion project. The officials worry that the project won't provide enough of either.

Boycott over Prop 8 fizzles in Park City

PARK CITY, Utah -- Talk of a boycott of Park City's Sundance Film Festival in January seems to be sputtering. The Park Record reports that the gay-friendly Queer Lounge intends to return. Ellen Huang, the founder and program director, told the newspaper that it is important for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community to use the opportunity for Sundance "to ensure their stories about our community reach a broad audience."

The boycott talk had materialized because of the role of the Mormon church, which is based in nearby Salt Lake City, in drumming up support for California's Proposition 8, which outlaws gay marriage.

Real estate tax sums plummet in Telluride

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Telluride's real estate economy is seriously in the tank. The town during November collected $18,000 in real-estate transfer taxes. That compares with an average $387,000 for the five previous Novembers, a 95 percent decline.

Although sales tax collections haven't dropped as severely, town manager Frank Bell is calling for reductions in spending by town employees that assume a 25 to 50 percent drop in revenues this winter. Bookings for the winter are currently running 25 percent below last year's banner ski season, notes The Telluride Watch.

For employees at town hall, credit cards will be reined in, travel will require special approval, and overtime pay will be banned, except for emergencies and snow removal. Presumably, lack of overtime for snow removal would provoke an even greater emergency.

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