Friday, July 27, 2012

No deadline on Rotarun plan

Commissioners: Secure funding first

Express Staff Writer

Rotarun Ski Club now has an indefinite time to secure funding to complete a day lodge and install snowmaking and a chairlift at Rotarun ski area in Croy Canyon west of Hailey.

Club representatives came before the County Commissioners on Tuesday to seek an extension of a deadline to implement a master plan for the projects. A plan is required to develop the site due to its location in the Recreational Development District.

The plan was originally approved in 2008 and work begun, but the projects included were stalled by sluggish fundraising.

The commissioners granted an indefinite extension for implementation of the plan under the condition that no more improvements be made until funding for the entire project is secured.

"Let them get the funding, then have them come to us and say, 'We're ready to do the project, is that OK?'" said Commissioner Larry Schoen. "This gets us out of micromanaging, and timelines are a focal point for that."

Rotarun leases 30 acres of county land 2.5 miles from Hailey. The top half of the hill is in the Mountain Overlay District, which tightly limits development, but the club has been granted an exclusion for a chairlift and snowmaking.

Jeff Smith, president of the ski club's board of directors, said that while the club is still working on funding for its three-phase plan, which includes renovation of a lodge building donated by Sun Valley Helicopter Ski Guides and the installation of a seven-tower chairlift donated by Sun Valley Co.

However, Smith said, the financial situation has changed since the club's master plan was approved in 2008. Not only did a substantial investor back out, he said, but the recession has also taken its toll.

"We had a commitment from a certain party to fund our three-phase [plan]," he said. "Things changed for them, and they have not kept that commitment. And as a whole, the economy has really changed."

The ski area has flourished despite the economy, however. According to board member Jesse Foster, the club was up $2,000 in ticket sales last year, and Smith added that participation was at 158 percent of last year's numbers.

That's good news for the club, Smith said, because its goal is to rely less on grants and philanthropy and to instead become a self-sustaining business.

"At first, we hit a home run" regarding funding, Smith said. "Our new tactic these days is to hit steady singles."

The snowmaking system is proposed to include 12 snowmaking guns, a lined holding pond, a pump station and in-ground transfer pipes. Smith said the ski club is still applying for a grant to secure funds for the snowmaking, but is within $80,000 of being able to afford the entire system.

The snowmaking system is expected to be in place by January.

Kate Wutz:

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