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Regional News Roundup – March 2009

Colorado DOC proposes property sale

BUENA VISTA- Citing current economic conditions, the Colorado Department of Correctional Facilities is putting up for sale 1,000 acres of land near the Buena Vista Correctional Facility including 640 acre feet which have an estimated value of $1,500,000 to $3,000,000.

The property was bought in parcels in the 1930’s and deeded to DOC in 1978. Since owning the property, DOC has used it for growing hay.


Sale of Vandaveer Ranch collapses

SALIDA – Sale of the city-owned Vandaveer Ranch to Corageux Development has fallen through.

The developer, after being given several extensions, defaulted on it’s contract with the city of Salida in February leaving the city still needing to pay off the original debt of $2.3 million to Glen and Julie Vandaveer.

Corageux had hoped to develop the 192-acre parcel, at the eastern end of the city on the north and south of U.S. 50, into residential and commercial properties with an 18-hole golf course.

The city of Salida had originally purchased the ranch for $3.2 million in 1994 to secure water rights.

The original purchase price negotiated with Corageux was $7 million. The city now plans to use money from the general and reserve funds to pay off the ranch debt outright.

Former Salida Mayor dies suddenly

SALIDA- Former Salida Mayor Danny Knight died unexpectedly on January 25 at the age of 50. He served as mayor from 2003-07.

Knight was the owner and operator of Knight and Sons Construction and was involved in a variety of civic activities including coaching football.

A memorial service was held at the John Held auditorium and was attended by an overflow crowd of nearly 500 people.

Gunnison considers electric car ordinance

GUNNISON – The Gunnison city council has reviewed a draft ordinance that would regulate “low-speed electric vehicles.“

If the ordinance is passed, low-speed vehicles would be allowed on city streets provided they are registered with the state, are operated at a speed no less than 10 mph and be restricted from highways 135 and 50 except to cross them.

The idea is to provide cost-saving ways of getting around town and help reduce emissions.

The Mt. Crested Butte town council recently passed a similar ordinance.

Crested Butte insists on LEED process for school

CRESTED BUTTE – A school in Crested Butte slated to be built will go through the accreditation process called LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design). The additional up-front cost for this process and improved materials and technology will be $130,000.

A large portion of that money is being used to pay for a firm that will monitor the work and verify the use of materials, designs, and techniques that will reduce energy use while also being healthy for students and faculty. The cost of these upgraded materials is estimated at $40,000.

The Crested Butte News notes that town officials insisted that the green credentials of the new school, which is being built partly on town property, be verified, with LEED being the best-known process of verification.

Jury remains out on expansion of ski area

CRESTED BUTTE – Usually, when the U.S. Forest Service agrees to take on a project for environmental review, the verdict is already in. All the rest is more or less a formality.

That was the case in Vail’s Category III ski area expansion of the 1990s, and probably any number of ski expansions. Before the Forest Service accepts a project, it seeks evidence that the proponent has broad community acceptance. Without it, the project is unlikely to move forward. But rarely does the environmental review yield grounds for a veto.

But history is no prelude, Forest Service officials assure Crested Butte town officials, who remain opposed to a major ski area expansion at Crested Butte onto neighboring Snodgrass Mountain. A project in Santa Fe, N.M., was denied after a review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In the Crested Butte case, the Forest Service is still awaiting evidence that the ski area owners, Tim and Diane Mueller, have gained the critical community acceptance. A letter from Charlie Richmond, the supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, says as much.

Steve Glaser, of the High Country Citizens Alliance, said the NEPA environmental evaluation does not kill process. “If you want to kill a project, you have to find a violation of a law, not the NEPA process,” he says.

Often, the Forest Service has been sued for violating NEPA process. When it does, the Forest Service revisits the process, goes through the process differently, but the ultimate decision is not changed.

Sledders fined $500 for riding in wilderness areas

ASPEN – Four snowmobilers have been fined $500 each by the U.S. Forest Service for snowmobiling in designated wilderness areas.

Such unlawful incursions into designated wilderness areas are common in the Roaring Fork Valley, says The Aspen Times. Some of the “poaching” is a result of ignorance, and in other cases it is intentional.

Either way, riders have the responsibility of knowing where the wilderness boundaries are located. Through the fines, the agency wanted to get the word out that there could be repercussions from violations.

Interior Secretary Salazar cancels Bush energy leases

Newly appointed Secretary of the Interior, Alamosa native Ken Salazar, has canceled leases on nearly 103,000 acres of land in Utah that were handed out to oil and gas companies in the waning days of the Bush administration.

The leases were all in close proximity to Dinosaur National Monument, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, spurning outrage from environmental activists including actor and director Robert Redford, who called the leases, “morally criminal.”

The government will forgo $6 million of $7.5 million in bids on the leases from an auction held on Dec. 19, 2008 according to Salazar.

The Bush administration saw the land as ripe for oil and gas development. A restraining order against the leases had been obtained by a group called Earthjustice which blocked the Bureau of Land Management from completing the sale by Jan. 17.

Salazar has directed the BLM to return almost $6 million to companies who had successful bids. Oil and gas producers and Republican members of Utah’s congressional delegation criticized the decision.

On a related note, a University of Utah student who gained national recognition after attending the lease auction and artificially bidding up the prices – with no intention of paying for the leases, is the son of Buena Vista Town Finance Director, Christine DeChristopher.

27-year-old Tim DeChristopher won the bidding on 13 parcels and drove up the price of several other parcels before he was removed from the auction and questioned.

There is now a website to help him pay legal fees and raise money to help make the first payment on the leases he “won” at the auction.