Feds’ review of embattled Colorado ski village plan on hold
Aspen, CO Colorado
MONTE VISTA, Colo. ” An environmental review of an embattled proposal for a ski village in southwest Colorado is on hold, leaving the nearly $1 billion project in limbo.
The U.S. Forest Service in September started a second review of a proposal by Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs to build a resort on his land at the base of the Wolf Creek ski area. The land is surrounded by national forest land.
Rio Grande National Forest officials said Thursday that they hadn’t received a new or amended application from the developer, so the project is on hold until they do.
Texas-based developer Hal Jones, who’s working with Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, which owns the land, didn’t immediately return calls to The Associated Press.
The Forest Service agreed to redo the environmental review on the project to settle a lawsuit by environmentalists that claimed the first one was inadequate.
In October, the agency extended the public comment period on the proposal to Dec. 31 because of changes to the developer’s plans. Deputy Forest Supervisor Jeni Evans said it’s not clear when the developer will submit an updated application and the Forest Service wanted to give the public time to look at and react to any changes from the original plan.
“Since we don’t know when we will receive an application, I decided to put a hold on the project rather than extend the scoping period again,” Evans said.
Forest Service spokesman Mike Blakeman said comments already submitted will be kept and used if the review is started again.
“We’re very pleased the Forest Service is continuing to live up to their promise to do the job right,” said Ryan Bidwell, executive director of Durango-based Colorado Wild, one of the groups that sued over the environmental impact statement.
The environmental review is of the potential impacts of access roads proposed across national forest land to the nearly 300 acres owned by McCombs. Forest Service officials have said federal law requires them to provide reasonable access to private property.
Mineral County had approved building permits for the ski village. The original plan called for up to 222,100 square feet of commercial space and enough housing for up to 10,500 people.
The state Appeals Court last year upheld a ruling voiding the permits, saying the county had not followed a state law requiring year-round access for vehicles.
Colorado Wild, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council and other opponents of the proposed ski village have argued the development would degrade the environment and overtax schools and other services in Mineral County, home to fewer than 1,000 full-time residents.
Supporters say the development will generate hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for the economically depressed area.
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