Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mountain Town News


Another town takes aim at cell phones

BOZEMAN, Mont.—Bozeman's city council last week adopted a law that will make holding and talking into a cell phone while driving against the law. The question is how effective the ban will be.

Ten states and a number of other Montana towns and cities have already put the kibosh on cell phones—at least in theory. In Billings, Montana's largest city, the ban was widely honored at first, the police chief tells the Bozeman Chronicle, but compliance has dropped.

Statistics cited by the Chronicle describe a strong correlation between traffic accidents, including fatal ones, and use of cell phones. However, a study by the Montana-based Western Transportation Institute tried to further narrow the specific cause. It concluded that it was the conversation itself that distracted drivers, not necessarily holding the cell phone.

If that case, Bozeman's new law may be ineffective. It bans holding and talking, but allows talking with hands-free headset.

Breck turning off redundant lights

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. -- Breckenridge again this winter is turning off streetlights throughout the town that are considered redundant. The Summit Daily News notes that this is part of the town's effort to become a leader among green communities. The redundant streetlights will be removed next year.

Looking for a hot time in Colorado

BUENA VISTA, Colo.—Work continues to exploit hot water deep in the ground at two sites in Colorado. The payoff? Heat to warm houses and, if it's hot enough, to produce electricity.

Salida's Mountain Mail tells of efforts at the Mount Princeton area of the Sawatch Range, southwest of Buena Vista. There, hot water already emerges from the ground along a local creek, which has been adapted into the Mount Princeton Hot Springs. As well, hot water emerging from the ground is used in greenhouses. Developers have seen the potential to tap the heat to create electricity, if sufficient supplies of hot water can be found. Developers at a recent meeting told about plans to use advanced technology to better determine the potential for deep water at six miles underground.

About 50 miles away as the crow flies, well-drillers in Aspen had expected to find hot water by drilling 1,000 feet in a test, but as of their drilling deadline of Dec. 1, they had not found it. The Aspen Daily News reports that town officials intended to fudge the deadline with hopes that a few days more drilling would yield the water. Town officials hope the water exists, and that it's hot enough to be used to heat buildings.


The 1 percent look for Aspen discounts

ASPEN, Colo.—Three properties in Pitkin County, originally listed at a collective $80.9 million, were sold during November for a combined $51.75 million.

"The toughest thing used to be finding property to show to your buyers because it would turn so fast and furiously that the better properties, inventory and homes would go away in a hurry," said Steven Shane, the listing broker for one of the home sales. "Now the biggest challenge is finding a reasonable buyer and seller."

Despite the discounts, these are—as The Aspen Times noted—homes for the 1 percent. One of the homes is 11,300 square feet and includes a 1,600-bottle wine room and theater.

Banff studies quotas for chain restaurants

BANFF, Alberta—And after 20 years of debate about the so-called formula franchise stores and restaurants, what will Banff do?

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that the Municipal Council refuses to adopt an outright ban. Instead, it will look at a quota system aimed specifically at restaurants—but not retail.

The latest row came when a Toronto-based retailer of bulk teas, David's, laid plans to open a store in Banff. It has 20 stores across Canada and the United States. The proprietor of the existing tea store, Banff Tea Co., is alarmed, fearful that there's just not enough customers for tea for two, nor two for tea.

Locally owned businesses have had their troubles competing with chains, but even the local tea shop proprietor believes chains have their place.

"I am not against all chains. I think some chains are necessary, like Safeway and The Dollar Store," said Susanne Gillies Smith. "If quotas mean finding a balance within the community and we will be able to represent Banff with a unique mountain town, then I'm all for it."

The Outlook reports that council members want a process to establish the type and level of quotas for all chain restaurants, not just fast food stores. The town currently has a McDonald's and a Subway. Quotas for chain retail stores may come later.

Councillor Stavros Karlos said the community needs closure on the issue.

"I've stayed up all night worrying and figuring out how to move it along in a respectful manner," he said at a council meeting.

Karlos said he could only consider a quota system if it were tied to an economic development strategy for the town.

"What I'm looking for is a thriving, vibrant downtown core," he said. "That's what my vision is."

Councillor Leslie Taylor said she finds the quota system interesting, as it "does not involve the town meddling in each and every individual transaction, and it provides long-term clarity over what will and will not be allowed now and in the future."

Only one councilor expressed outright opposition, on the grounds that the quota was meddling in the free market.

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