Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mountain Town News


Romney passes hat in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo.—Mitt Romney continues to rustle deep pockets in Western states, with recent stops in Utah, Wyoming and Montana. He also did some meet-and-greet in Aspen, where a $2,500 "contribution" was expected from those attending a reception. For a private sit-down dinner with Romney, the campaign tip jar expected $50,000 per person, reports the Aspen Daily News.

Obama holds a distinct edge over Romney in contributions reported so far in Aspen, though presumably Romney's evening has put him far ahead when the next tally is reported by a contribution-tracking website called

Aspen uncertain about economy

ASPEN, Colo.—Even Aspen is expecting to see ripples from the now-uncertain U.S. economy. While the city sales tax collections are up 6 percent this year, the city is budgeting a 4 percent increase next year. However, it also expects a 14 percent lodging tax.

"I think there's uncertainty in the national economy, and we don't know how that will affect us here," explained Don Taylor, the city's finance director.

Tax collections on real estate transfers are down 4.4 percent this year.

Icicles and antacid coming up in Breck

BRECKNERIDGE, Colo.—Breckenridge elected officials are welcoming two new attractions next winter that were previously located in nearby towns.

Ice Castles, a name that pretty much describes the attraction, drew 56,000 people last winter to Silverthorne. The for-profit business that created it hopes for even more people at Breckenridge, but also colder temperatures. Breckenridge is 1,000 feet higher in elevation.

Less effusively, Breckenridge is accepting a high-octane three-day music festival called the SnowBall. The Summit Daily News notes that 100 arrests were made last winter when the festival was held in Avon, mostly for drug and alcohol offenses.

Give it a whirl anyway, advised Mike Dudick, a Breckenridge councilman.

"We've all heard of the X Games in Aspen. There was probably a lot of heartburn on that one, and look where they are now," Dudick said.

New gondola from Main Street shops

PARK CITY, Utah—There's serious talk, though not yet concrete plans, about installing a gondola between Park City's old Main Street area and Deer Valley, the ski area several miles away.

Bob Wheaton, the general manager of Deer Valley, said the gondola connection would set Park City apart from other ski destinations. Not one other downtown has immediate access to two ski areas. The other would be Park City Mountain Resort.

The Park Record notes that a gondola from Main Street was also considered about 15 years ago, but ultimately deemed unworkable as then proposed.

Not one new house in nearly 4 years

BASALT, Colo.—A few years ago, Basalt struggled with the rapid pace of real estate development. Now, at least according to a majority of council members, it struggles with the lack of growth.

Town Manager Bill Kane said Basalt hasn't processed one development application in nearly four years.

"The inconvenient truth is we're digging out at an almost imperceptible rate," he said at a recent meeting covered by The Aspen Times.

Kane wants to ditch a scoring system created when Basalt was still booming with real estate development. That message, in what is now an "entirely different paradigm," tells developers that "we don't want you here." A key portion of the regulations requires commercial developers of projects larger than 2,500 square feet to provide housing for 25 percent of the employees generated by the business.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt isn't persuaded. She says it's the lending policies of banks that have blocked development, not the town's regulations. She points to 600 residential units approved but unbuilt in Basalt.

Aspen sticks to its guns on hotel size

ASPEN, Colo.—Aspen also wants a new hotel. For much of the past decade, the town has been talking with developers about what might happen at a slope-side location that has been decaying for decades.

But Aspen, more than most, has been insisting that super-sized buildings just don't work for the town. Developers are just as insistent that they need at least the giant size to make the numbers work.

This discussion returned recently, as City Council members encourage a developer called ASC Aspen Street Owners, which is planning to build a townhome, to instead build a hotel, otherwise known as a lodge.

"If we can go forward with a lodge, whose scale matches the current code, we'd be willing to make some concessions to make that happen," Mayor Mick Ireland said.

The Aspen Times reports that true to form, the developer says it will be hard to make the numbers work with such a small mass.

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