Recently I participated as a member of a panel that made a presentation to the local Builders Association on the state of the local economy. As part of my presentation I briefly discussed the 3rd Quarter Summary Report that is within this Blog Site. After our presentation a representative of Red McCombs, Clint Jones, made a 45 minute presentation about their latest efforts to move forward with the Village at Wolf Creek.
Jones replaced Bob Honts, the previous front man and local development manager for McCombs. Jones appears to be a much more qualified representative, at least in terms of his public demeanor and diplomatic skills. Jones presented the group’s latest proposal for developing land adjacent to Wolf Creek Ski Area which involves a land exchange with the Forest Service. If approved it would give the development direct access to State Highway 160 and provide them with 207 acres of more buildable land in exchange for trading 207 acres of their existing holdings which include a significant amount of wetlands. If the exchange is approved, it would eliminate the need for Forest Service approval of a special access point to State Highway 160, which has been difficult to obtain during the last several years.
According to Jones, they settled their legal issues with the Ski Area and now enjoy a friendly and cooperative working relationship. Jones stated it was the Wolf Creek Ski Corporation CEO that suggested the land exchange idea. Jones also stated that he had initiated productive discussions with Colorado Wild, a major opponent of any development adjacent to the Ski Area during the past several years. So, will there be a development up at Wolf Creek? Good question. Clint Jones indicated the land exchange could take up to two years to obtain approval. Next they would have to submit their revised development plans and go through the normal planning processes in Mineral County. Both the land exchange and planning process would involve public hearings and public input. The revised plan which includes the land exchange would result in a more scaled down version of the plan previously approved by Mineral County. From several perspectives, the new plan makes much more sense. Still, there are issues that will need to be addressed. First, can a ski area development be successful without a golf course or other summer season recreational components? The market for resort properties has changed significantly during the last three years. Demand has declined considerably and project financing has nearly evaporated. As wealth as Red McCombs is, he, like all developers utilize outside financing sources. Second, will a development at 10,000 feet elevation work? The base elevation at Durango Mountain Resort is 8,800 feet. When my wife Lauri and I lived at Keystone Resort, our home was at 9,500 feet elevation and a good number of our visitors suffered from the effects of altitude sickness. What will the Village do for the energy needs of the commercial space, hotel facilities, condos and single family homes? Presently the nearest natural gas transmission line is over the hill along the East Fork of the San Juan. Will they have to truck fuel up to the development, or rely on more expensive electric heat? How will they handle the waste water processing for the development? There are many other issues and questions that will need to be addressed before we ever see development at the Village at Wolf Creek. In my estimation, it will be at least five years before we ever see condos on the mountain, if ever.