Mountain News 

Ridgway group tells Dollar Store to stay away

RIDGWAY, Colo. - Hang the low prices, a good number of people in Ridgway don't want a Family Dollar Store. The wildly successful chain store has rights to build in Ridgway, a gateway to Telluride and other towns of the western San Juan Mountains. But 700 people have signed a petition saying "stay away."

"We all moved here because we wanted to get away from life in big cities that are full of Wal-Marts and big-box stores," said opposition leader Vicci Spencer, who organized a group called CPR, or Citizens to Preserve Ridgway.

"We like the character of our little, small town, and its aesthetics are very important to us," she told the Telluride Watch .

But is a Family Dollar Store a manifestation of urban America? Or a tradition that more closely resembles the franchise retailers found in mid-century small-town America?

Main Streets in small towns all used to have Gamble's and Coast to Coast for hardware needs, and Ben Franklin's, Duckwall's and a host of others for miscellaneous stores. Later, a chain called Gibson's arrived, being a smaller-town equivalent to the K-Marts and Targets of cities.

For that matter, plenty of small towns now have Family Dollars. You can find them in every farm town.

Citing a recent New York Times story, The Watch reports that Family Dollar stores have been thriving during the time of economic decline. The company sees its core customers as a female head of household in her mid-40s who is making less than $40,000 a year.

More affluent households are now driving the growth of the chain, which is planning 200 more stores. These more upscale households are shopping at Family Dollar to save money, wanting to preserve their affluence or worried about their continued livelihoods.

 

Colorado framing the terms for Olympic bid

DENVER, Colo. - Colorado politicians have begun to frame the terms under which Denver and Colorado will seek to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. They're asking for clear indication of public support and they expect the business community to step up to take leadership.

Governor John Hickenlooper, formerly the mayor of Denver, told The Denver Post there must be clear dividends for the state. He cited improved exercise programs and transportation improvements.

"It could prove to be a powerful incentive to find a solution to solving the challenge of getting up to the mountains on I-70 during the weekends," he said.

Salt Lake City and Whistler both gained substantial transportation improvements prior to hosting the Olympics in 2002 and 2010, respectively. In Salt Lake's case, it got federal funding for expansion of light rail and a substantial improvement to the interstate highways that bisect the metropolitan area.

Hickenlooper said neither Denver nor Colorado would be eager to assemble a bid on their own, because government resources are badly depleted by the down-economy. "There's where the business community would really need to come in to help. "If the people of the state seem willing, my suspicion is the business community will step in," he said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock had similar sentiments. "It's a very expensive process to go after," he told The Post .

Former Gov. Dick Lamm, who led the drive in 1972 to end the state subsidy for the 1976 Olympics, resulting in the withdrawn offer to host the Games, remains skeptical.

"The history of the Winter Olympics has been soaked in red ink," he said. "But I know that those five... rings are so glittery that they can distort people's judgment."

 

Bag fees debated in three Colorado towns

ASPEN, Colo. - By the standards of Aspen, the brouhaha about the $0.20 fee being considered for plastic bags amounts to little more than mid-day pleasantries.

"Aren't you guys aware of what this will do to the tourist trade?" asked Linda Hayes in a letter published in the Aspen Daily News . "Every time they buy something and are hit with that fee, they will have a very negative impression of Aspen."

"This is about government power and control, and has nothing to do with plastic bags," wrote Sheldon Fingerman. "It's another one of Aspen's infamous 'feel good' ordinances that really doesn't accomplish anything."

On the flip side was Travis LaSalle. "Considering the minor economic impact the bag fee will have on individuals, opposition to the fee seems to me to represent nothing more than stubborn attachment to the ways of the past."

With only one dissent, the Aspen council voted to approve the fee on first reading. A second reading will be necessary. The lone dissenting council member reasoned that if Aspen were going to impose a fee, it might as well ban plastic bags altogether from the city's two grocery stores.

Down-valley at Basalt, the town council there also approved a fee, but did not set a price, reports the Aspen Times . A third town, Carbondale, is scheduled to take up the matter in September.

According to Aspen's Community Office for Resource Efficiency, the average American uses 400 disposable grocery bags per year. If that figure held true in Aspen, and the 20 cent fee is enacted, it would yield $80 per person, or about $434,000 altogether from local residents, not counting tourists.

Some of the money will be returned to grocery stores for administration of the program, and the balance is to be used for educational purposes. Still, there was some question whether 20 cents wasn't too much.

In Steamboat Springs, city officials are scheduled to consider a similar 20-cent fee. From early statements by elected officials and the editor of the Steamboat Pilot , the idea has little chance of success.

The newspaper, in an editorial, urges a volunteer program. It envisions reusable bag kiosks at the front of the two grocery stores and Walmart. The kiosks could be stocked with thousands of reusable bags for shoppers to take freely. Shoppers also could drop reusable bags at the kiosks. Property management companies could collect bags left behind by visitors and return them to the kiosks or make them available to new guests.

It further envisions local businesses donating bags - brandished with the businesses' logo and advertising messages - to the program.

"Shoppers wouldn't have to feel guilty about forgetting their reusable bags. More importantly they wouldn't be charged unnecessarily for that minor sin," said the newspaper.

 

Cycling Challenge a solid home run

VAIL, Colo. -Coloradans last week forgot about the Broncos and lit out for backcountry roads and city streets to watch some of the world's best cyclists. From the start at Colorado Springs to the finish line in Denver, there were large crowds all along the way.

Whether it produced much money for mountain towns along the way seems to be almost incidental. More towns - including Durango and Telluride, as well as the university towns of Boulder and Fort Collins - want to get in on the action next year.

The closest thing to a glitch was when a competitor riding up Cottonwood Pass in the much-anticipated silver stage, between Gunnison and Aspen, tumbled while crossing a cattle guard, breaking both hands and suffering enough facial injuries that plastic surgeons were called in.

Those reporting from the race course reported a carnival-like atmosphere, with all manner of people in costumes, some of them downright bizarre. The Denver Post tells of somebody dressed like Jesus with a white robe and a crown of thorns carrying a sign reading "Spandex is sin."

In estimating crowd sizes, race organizers consistently erred on the size of inflated numbers. In Summit County, for example, they estimated 50,000 people lined the race course. The county has a permanent population of about 20,000.

But the Steamboat Pilot , which should know such things, said that the turnout for the leg of the race from Avon was the largest that has ever occurred in downtown Steamboat Springs, surpassing even the Fourth of July parade and the Winter Carnival festivities.

Race participants were also prone to flattering comparisons. One competitor said it was the greatest turnout he had ever seen - and he didn't limit that to just the United States.

The race was the idea of Lance Armstrong, now a part-time Aspen resident, who called then-Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and asked him why Colorado didn't have a high-caliber bicycle race. And so the wheels began spinning.

It took a lot of money, both from hosting towns, including Crested Butte, Vail, and Breckenridge, but also far up and beyond.

A principal figure is Richard Schaden, a Boulder-based trail lawyer and businessman (Quiznos sandwich chain and Smashburger), who put $10 million into the race along with his son and business partner, Rick Schaden.

The elder Schaden told reporters in Aspen that he knew they had a hot property when the first three finishers on the Tour de France this year bypassed a race in Spain to come to compete in the Colorado race.

While the race was capital intensive in its first year, he said that in future years he sees bidding wars between major sponsors. He said he will give the race three years to take off before he would pull the plug.

In ski towns, meanwhile, host committees are calculating the costs and benefits. Even when lodges filled up, that didn't necessarily translate into booming business in the stores.

But the race got major international exposure, and host communities believe that's worth quite a lot. Whether they truly got their money back in terms of marketing exposure in the first year is still being calculated.

But it doesn't really matter. One observer in Vail remarked that what struck her was how friendly the bicycle racing enthusiasts were, and how knowledgeable they were, too.

After many years of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France, there were many fans of bicycle racing.

 

Boutique hotel intends to tap geothermal heat

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - Wells drilled into the hot subterranean under Mammoth Lakes could melt the snow on sidewalks and warm the rooms of the 54-room Handmade Hotel Mammoth View.

Planning commissioners recently approved the project, which also has 28 units called "eco cabins" and another 24 condominiums called "eco lofts."

Developer of the project is Britannia Pacific Properties, a Sacramento-based real estate investment company. The parent company, London-based Lewis Trust Group, owns and manages more than 4,000 rooms at hotels in the United States, Israel and Thailand, among them a Ritz-Carlton in Palm Beach and a Doubletree in Atlanta.

The Sheet reports high words of praise at the planning commission from Rick Phelps, director of the High Sierra Energy Foundation. He said the project could become a showcase for the rest of the nation. Instead of "buying wind credits in Montana," he said, the hotel would produce its own renewable energy. He advocates creation of a geothermal district, to more extensively tap the abundant underground heat at Mammoth Lakes.

How soon the hotel gets built, however, is an open question. The Sheet reports the applicant wants an extension of its legal entitlements. Normally, a developer has only two years or so to get something built.

 

Hotel developer now asks to be downsized

KETCHUM, Idaho - Developer of a giant resort complex at the base of the Sun Valley ski area has returned before town officials in Ketchum, asking them to authorize a much smaller project.

No financing has yet been found to build the 800,000-square-foot project, said attorney Ed Lawson, representing Helios Development. Helios now wants a 250,000 square-foot reduction. Before, it had said it needed more to make the numbers work.

Original plans called for a nine-story luxury hotel with 120 rooms located along a nine-hole golf course and with workforce housing for 93 employees. In addition to rooms, the recreational amenities have been pared. Four tennis courts, instead of eight, are planned, and the golf course reduced to a practice facility, reports the Idaho Mountain Express

The developer also wants Ketchum to waive the front-ended workforce housing requirements, to be replaced by an in-lieu fund generated by a tax on the sale of merchandise at the property.

 

Wolf reported in Park City, biologist skeptical

PARK CITY, Utah - A wolf, said the caller, had wandered down a street in a local subdivision, wandered into a garage, and left. But the local wildlife authorities doubt the story. More likely, it was a husky or a German shepherd.

"I would be extremely shocked if it was a wolf," said Bruce Johnson, a state wildlife officer. "This is not normal wolf behavior."

Wolves have ventured into Utah from the Yellowstone region, and one was living last year in the Uintah Range, about an hour east of Park City.

 

Park City negotiating over land development

PARK CITY, Utah - City officials are negotiating with a family that owns a large amount of prime, developable land in Park City called Treasure.

City officials have offered to pay $48 million for development rights, but are also talking about paying the family that owns the property $15 million, which would reduce the scope of the project and shift some of the development to a spot uphill of the base lifts for Park City Mountain Resort. Either way, taxpayers would be asked to approve debt, notes The Park Record.

 

New airport planning for Sun Valley on hold

HAILEY, Idaho - Efforts of tourism promoters in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area suffered another blow this past week when the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was suspending work indefinitely on the environmental review for a new airport.

Concerns about impact to sage grouse, as well as rising costs, were cited. Since 2006, the costs of the new airport have increased from $107 million to $314 million. As well, the FAA says that compensating for loss of habitat for sage grouse would be problematic. The grouse became a candidate species for federal protection last year, due in part to fragmentation of habitat.

The Ketchum-Sun Valley market is currently served by an airport at Hailey, located about 10 miles from the resort, but it has many limitations. Last winter, about 30 percent of all resort guests arrived via the Hailey airport, called Friedman Airport, with another 30 percent arriving via airports in Twin Falls, about 90 minutes away, or at Boise, about three hours away.

What happens next is unclear, but the Idaho Mountain Express focused on new approaches to a more limited expansion of the existing airport at Hailey. An existing agreement governing airport operation at Hailey is premised on the idea that it will not be expanded.

Plans to develop a new airport stemmed largely from determinations by the FAA that Friedman, the existing airport, does not meet safety standards for handling certain types of large aircraft. A waiver was granted for certain conditions.

But Rick Baird, manager of the airport, noted that Sun Valley may lose service, because regional carriers aren't purchasing the sort of aircraft that are needed to provide service to Friedman Airport.

 

Aspen moves forward on affordable housing

ASPEN, Colo. - While there are many off-ramps, Aspen city officials have moved forward on the second phase of an affordable housing project called Burlingame Ranch.

This next phase would consist of 167 affordable housing units built during the next 5 to 6 years. However, the city is not looking to start construction for at least another year.

The Aspen Daily News reports that a key question for city officials is how soon the units will be needed. About 190 people put their names on a pre-sales list.

Still, there are worries about saturation of the market. An existing owner of deed-restricted housing earlier this summer urged the city to wait on new housing, lest the market be diluted and no buyers would be available should he want to sell his unit.

Chris Everson, the affordable housing program manager, said the city may also look at job growth and income distribution statistics in considering whether to go forward with more housing.

 

 

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