Minturn votes to Ginn-trify

Brief by Allen Best

Development – July 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Despite being sandwiched in by Vail and Beaver Creek, two of the nation’s glossiest resorts, Minturn still has an element of the grime accumulated from its 90 years as a railroad and mining center.

But there may soon be gloss in a new direction. In May, town residents, by 87 percent to 13 percent, affirmed the annexation and approved development proposed by Ginn Resorts, a Florida-based company.

This is the company’s first foray into the Rocky Mountains, but it is a very big one. Tentatively approved are 1,700 homes, from condominiums located in a former Superfund mining area along the Eagle River to mansions that are high-end in both the economic and literal elevational sense. Connecting the two will be a gondola. A semi-private ski area and a golf course built atop mine tailings are also planned.

Although housing prices in Minturn have inflated relative to those of nearby resorts, it remains a small town with a population that is interrelated in the way that many small towns are. There are, in other words, plenty of second and third cousins.

Ginn never pretended that there would be no impacts. Traffic will get worse. Housing prices are likely to rise. But the company also contracted, in its annexation agreement, to build a recreation center, create sidewalks, and do other things that Minturn, with a thin sales tax base, could not afford to do.

Helping boost his company’s image was Bobby Ginn, the company’s drawling, cowboy-boot-wearing principal. The 59-year-old Ginn was in town two weeks, and helped hump trash at the town’s community cleanup day the week before.

After the vote, Ginn paid for the drinks at a local bar until the booze was completely gone.

Elsewhere in the Eagle Valley, the vote was seen as no reason for celebration. One blogger on the Vail Daily website charged that it will turn Minturn “into a rich man’s paradise at the expense of regular folks.” Another, bemoaned increased traffic on the town’s narrow main street, saying, “You made your bed Minturn, now lie in it.”

But one blogger took a longer perspective. “Mountainpilot” on the Vail Daily website said that Minturn had waited too long to change. “There should have been a balance. Instead there was a void … and a savior has come to Minturn. Hopefully it will work out as the voters planned.”

One thing worth observing as the development moves forward is Ginn’s oft-stated promise that it will not only initiate development, but also operate what has been approved.

That, says Cliff Thompson, the project’s spokesman, will make a difference in many ways. The company has been studying green architecture and renewable energy technologies, and Thompson contends that the project at Battle Mountain will become a model for mountain resort development.