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Mountain News:

Compiled By Allan Best

Water scarcity may limit building at Winter Park

WINTER PARK, Colo. — Two years ago, during the worst drought in several centuries, there were some doubts whether toilets at the Winter Park ski area would have enough water for flushing.

That proved not to be the case, but Winter Park continues to be in a water pickle. Denver and other Front Range municipalities, which already take 65 percent of the water in the Fraser River Valley, want to take 83 percent. Meanwhile, the second-home boom is just starting to hit. Will there be enough for all?

Probably not, which is why the Winter Park Town Council is now looking at whether it needs to prioritize the development it allows. One of the decisions, Mayor Nick Teverbaugh told the Winter Park Manifest, is to either let everyone who wants to develop come in on a first-come, first-serve basis, or to "set value judgments that are in the best public interests."

While one council member says the town may need to learn to say no, another approach is that developers will want to buy water taps as soon as they get development authorized.

Water available for 20 more years of growth

EAGLE VALLEY, Colo. — The boom-boom can continue for another 20 years, say water officials in an area called the Vail Valley, a strip of about 25 miles of development located along I-70.

"For the growth we’ve projected the water rights have already been dedicated or cash-in-lieu has been paid to acquire additional water rights," said Becky Bultemeier, finance manager of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

And what a lot of growth that will be, says a new report broken down by the Vail Daily. The newspaper says that Vail itself, which was considered to be nigh on to build-out, now expects to increase in size by 11 percent during the next six years. Down-valley, in the Avon, Edwards, and Cordillera areas, water use could grow by about 40 percent, based on existing zoning and other expectations.

One key assumption is that less water per capita will be used in the future. Water use has been dropping rapidly in the last several years. Water use four summers ago was 223 gallons a day for what is called a single-family equivalent. This year, an uncommonly cool year, it had dropped to 207 gallons.

As are most headwater counties, Vail and its suburbs is looking into additional reservoir storage. No serious thought has been given publicly to not attempting to develop water sources for new population growth.

Durango squabbling about limiting growth

DURANGO, Colo. — Proponents of a growth-control initiative claim that officials in Durango, where the population is now 15,000, have a goal of hitting 40,000.

City officials say there is no such goal, but they concede that the city has drawn up a plan that assumes the city’s water, sewer and other infrastructure will someday serve 40,000 people. However, they say that will not happen for a long time.

The dispute is part of a broader argument about how growth should be managed in Durango. While it inched along at one percent a year during the 1990s, population growth has been running at 4 percent in the last several years. Furthermore, plans for new developments are unfolding at a brisk pace.

Proponents say this new accelerated pace illustrates why a growth-control measure is needed. The measure would force updates of development codes and plans, including review of cumulative traffic impacts. But the bottom-line intent of proponents is to just-say-no more often. "At what point does urbanization make Durango no longer livable?" asked Renee Parsons, president of the Friends of the Animas Valley.

Opponents say the existing review process, which takes six to nine months, does its job adequately. Furthermore, they do not see limiting population growth as a good way to define quality of life.

Ex-pro ski racer gets on most-wanted list

BASALT, Colo. — A former ski racer, Josef Odermatt, has shown up on the most-wanted list issued by police in Eagle County after failing to make required court appearances.

Friends in Aspen described Odermatt as a charismatic, personal guy with incredible skiing talent who began getting into trouble in 1995. Keith Ikeda, police chief of Basalt, said Odermatt’s record is typical of someone who tried to control a relationship to the point of becoming violent, and let substance abuse get the best of him.

What it all adds up to, says The Aspen Times, is a former ski racing champion whose life swerved radically off course.

Odermatt, 52, had broken his back when he was 16, and when he recovered he joined the pro circuit in the United States. That was in the 1970s. Although he was known to party as hard as he skied, his troubles did not begin until the mid-1990s, when he was accused of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. A few years later there was an indecent exposure charge, and then a domestic disturbance, and then more and more arrests. There is some speculation he returned to Switzerland.

Silverton may tack on room tax for promotion

SILVERTON, Colo. — A move is afoot to pay for the visitors’ center more securely and equitably. Currently, the center is funded by a business license fee of $175. But a new proposal would add a $2 per night room tax, with the expectation that it would generate $40,000 to $60,000. The Silverton Standard says this is an idea whose time has come.

Christopher Reeves was a frequent visitor to Vail

VAIL, Colo. — Actor Christopher Reeves, who died recently at the age of 52, was a regular Vail visitor both before and after being paralyzed in 1995 as the result of being thrown from a horse.

The Vail Daily reports Reeves skied at Vail with his family, and his Christopher Reeves Paralysis Foundation, received $1 million as the result of fund-raising activities during the American Ski Classic, a ski-racing event held annually at Vail and nearby Beaver Creek.

In a 2002 interview with the newspaper, Reeves took issue with President George W. Bush’s action that limited the scope of stem cell research.

"It we ban therapeutic cloning, we may lose our medical pre-eminence," he said. Stem cells "can help millions of people. It’s the best available technology."

Vail and suburbs less inclined to vote GOP

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — Eagle County, with Vail and Beaver Creek at its hub, is known as an outpost of Wall Street and a hotbed of rich Republicans. An examination of election records by the Eagle Valley Enterprise suggests a more complex story.

In the 1970s, the county did tilt strongly Republican, with both Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan trouncing Jimmy Carter in the local vote. The margins started narrowing with the election of the elder George Bush in 1988, and then Bill Clinton won in both 1992 and 1996, although third-party candidate Ross Perot — who owned two homes at the time in the Vail area — came close to coming in first. In the last election, the junior George Bush put the county back into the Republican column, but not by much, with a 47-to-44 margin over Al Gore.

Why is Eagle County trending toward blue after being such a hotbed of red? The Enterprise did not say as much, but an educated guess is that as the Republican Party has veered right in its environmental and social politics, moderate Republicans have been more inclined to cross the party line to vote for Democrats. Plus, the rapidly exploding population tends to be less affiliated.

In local offices, Republicans retain a slight margin, but voters have elected several Democrats, among them a black person and a man with a ponytail, as county commissioners, indicating they’re willing to look beyond images.

Hospital chiefs shuffle jobs in Colorado resorts

Aspen, Colo. — Hospital administrators in Colorado’s larger resorts seem to be on the move. David Ressler, the new chief executive officer at Aspen Valley Hospital. has the task of leading the hospital out of deep finance woes. "If you do the job well, financial success will follow," he confidently told The Aspen Times.

In Vail, Tom Zellers is returning to Washington state after only 15 months as administrator of the Vail Valley Medical Center. No reason was given for his hasty exit.