Developers of the Village at Wolf Creek have modified plans for a proposed land swap near the top of Wolf Creek Pass, where a resort town with ski-in and ski-out access is envisioned.
The amended plan is similar to one submitted earlier this year by developers, but it makes slight boundary adjustments to accommodate the realignment of a ski lift that would link the village and Wolf Creek Ski Area. It also includes two alternate plans should the U.S. Forest Service reject the land swap.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, 100 miles east of Durango, is one of the oldest and least developed ski resorts in Colorado. It typically receives 465 inches of snow annually, making it one of the snowiest places in the state. The proposed village sits at an elevation of 10,300 feet, about 1,000 feet higher than Silverton.
Clint Jones, project leader from Austin, Texas, said the land exchange is in the best interest of all parties, including the public. He was in town Wednesday to promote and share details of the amended plan.
What were really trying to do is put the village in the right location, Jones said. Were excited to go ahead and get this process going. Weve got a long way to go with this.
But Durango-based environmental group Colorado Wild wants to keep the land undeveloped. The proposed village is too large for the area and will have severe impacts on the regions air quality, water quality and wildlife, said Ryan Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild.
Weve also been concerned that, at least to date, theres not been an open and comprehensive analysis of what the impacts of the project would be, he said.
The proposed land exchange is between the ski area and the proposed Village of Wolf Creek. It proposes an even land exchange of 178 acres for 178 acres. The ski area would receive property closest to the ski mountain, including some wetlands, in exchange for developable property on the north side of the proposed village and a small piece of land connecting the private property to U.S. Highway 160.
Without a land exchange, the developer must rely on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which requires private property owners to be granted access to their property when it is surrounded by federal land.
The owner of the village land, B.J. Red McCombs, has tried for 20 years to build a resort town on the 287-acre in-holding.
Until about two years ago, he was proposing a village that could hold as many as 10,000 people when fully built all at the base of a ski area that currently is undeveloped.
McCombs, a Texas billionaire, has lobbied Congress and the highest levels of the Forest Service in an attempt to build the village. He even sought to get former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, to insert a rider into a bill that would allow the village to be built without doing an Environmental Impact Analysis. Several state and federal lawsuits have been filed over the years.
McCombs, former owner of the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Vikings is ranked No. 296 on Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans for 2009.
Development plans were derailed about two years ago when developers failed to get road access to their land.
The most recent plan calls for a 1,711-unit village, including two hotels, condominiums and townhomes. Phase 1 calls for 497 units. Phasing would be tied to future expansion of the ski area, Jones said.
Jones said developers voluntarily reduced the number of units being proposed. They met with Colorado Wild to ask how many units would be acceptable, and Colorado Wilds response was zero, he said.
Bidwell said he supports the village proposal going through the proper Forest Service review process.
Many questions remain unanswered, he said, including where the water is going to come from and be stored to support a town of that size. McCombs owns a lot of water rights, Bidwell said, but theres not a lot of water to draw from close to the Continental Divide.
Also, the electricity supply is insufficient to support a village of that size, he said, which means developers would have to build a power plant or upgrade an entire utility line going up Wolf Creek Pass.
Davey Pitcher, owner of the ski area, could not be reached Thursday for comment.