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Council nixes Intrawest expansion plans for Copper Mountain

Plan would double size of resort, add commercial space

A 15-year, multimillion dollar proposal that would effectively double the capacity of Intrawest’s Copper Mountain resort in Colorado was rejected by the Summit Board of County Commissioners on Monday after three years of exhaustive planning and negotiations.

The Comprehensive Development Strategy put forth by Intrawest would have seen the construction of 1,155 additional residential units at Copper Mountain on top of the 500 units that were already approved for the resort. In addition, the plan included 150,00 square feet of commercial space, roughly half of which would go towards the creation of a new performing arts centre. A new gondola and new trails would connect new developments to the mountain.

According to Intrawest the extra density was needed to make the resort commercially viable.

The two county commissioners that rejected Intrawest’s proposal said Intrawest was reluctant to address their concerns.

In addition, Intrawest wanted to delay the vote on their proposal to a Sept. 10 meeting to give the company more time bring a new county commissioner up to speed on the project. The existing commissioners, who are facing an election in August, felt that another delay could take them and their concerns out of the picture for this decision.

Bill Wallace, one of the commissioners that rejected the project, told the Summit Daily News that "the residents of Summit County have a right to know how I feel about this density issue. (Intrawest) wanted the first meat-potatoes meeting (on density) on Sept. 10. What if I lose on Aug. 10?

"Back in November I had concerns about density; I still have those same concerns.

"I was hoping to get some indication whether those folks in Vancouver (Intrawest’s corporate headquarters) are willing to address those concerns."

Wallace and Tom Long, the other country commissioner to vote against the proposal, were also not happy with the $6.5 million in public amenities that Intrawest proposed with the project. They said that some of the items, like the new fire station and chapel, were company obligations rather than amenities.

Other benefits included some land to build a performing arts centre (which could cost up to $30 million to build), $250,000 for the Community Care Clinic and $350,000 for the Swan Mountain recreation path (estimated to cost $40 million and $11 million respectively). The deal also included more open space and parks at Copper Mountain.

Both Wallace and Long said they would support some increase in density in a future vote and wanted to see more benefits for the community.

Intrawest and its supporters have not given up on the project and are reviewing their options. Construction on the 500 units that were already approved can also go ahead.

However, Intrawest will likely have to start at the drawing board at the local level before bringing their proposal back to the Summit Board of County Commissioners. Ten well-attended public meetings were already held on the proposal, some lasting until after midnight, and the size of the proposal was already scaled back before it was rejected.

Public feedback in the valley has been mixed. Most of the people who were against the project still support Intrawest’s vision for the resort, but felt that the project was maybe a little too big for the community.

According to the Summit Daily News, Vail Resorts was watching the decision closely, hoping to use a "yes" vote as a precedent to push forward their own plans in Keystone and Breckenridge.

Although Intrawest was frustrated by the decision, it didn’t have an effect on the company’s stock, which continued to climb on Tuesday and Wednesday.