Institute’s development plans divide caucus |

Institute’s development plans divide caucus

Eben Harrell

Plans for a new center for the Rocky Mountain Institute on the Windstar property have outraged nearby residents in the rural Snowmass/Capitol Creek area and sharply divided the caucus that represents them.The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a nonprofit environmental think tank run by Amory Lovins, is in the early stages of an approval process for a new master plan that calls for a new 25,000-square-foot office building and 25 employee housing units on its Windstar property. The development will replace Windstar’s aging office building and visitor center. RMI says its proposal matches the ethos of its environmental mission.”[RMI] wants to be an example of an environmentally sensitive development,” spokesman Tim Malloy said. “They are working on doing something that minimizes all impacts.”RMI purchased Windstar from singer-songwriter John Denver in the late 1970s. Denver founded Windstar as a nonprofit environmental education foundation with longtime friend Tom Crum. After the purchase, RMI played an integral role in securing a conservation easement designating 927 acres of the 957-acre property as open space and protected wildlife habitat.RMI presented its proposal to construct a new headquarters and housing on the unencumbered 30-acre parcel to the Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus on Monday night. The caucus, made up of residents living in the Capitol and Snowmass Creek drainages, plays an advisory role to the county, giving its opinion on development applications before they go to the planning and zoning commission.Approximately 25 people showed up to oppose the plan, voicing concerns over light and noise pollution, increased traffic, effects on local water supplies and the office building’s size.”When I moved into the valley and when I gave money to RMI to buy out [the Windstar] property, I didn’t know we were in store for such a large development. It’s just not consistent with a rural area,” a resident from adjacent Lazy-O Ranch complained.Malloy countered that a previous approval by Pitkin County in 1979 allows for the development proposed by the institute. He also reminded the caucus that the project has yet to be designed, but would surely reflect RMI’s global commitment to environmentally responsible development.The caucus, which has worked with RMI on its master plan proposal for the last 18 months and had anticipated endorsing it, was admittedly swayed by the residents opposing the plan. “Your mission is to walk softly across the globe, but I think you are dancing loudly here at home,” caucus member Suzanne Catsey sad.After more than three hours of discussion, resolutions opposing and supporting the master plan both failed. The split caucus then decided to send a letter to the county taking a neutral stance but listing the concerns raised by the neighbors at the caucus meeting.Acting caucus President Tim McFlynn closed the meeting by reminding the residents that approval for the master plan was still a long way off. The planning and zoning commission will consider the master plan in a public meeting on Sept. 21.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is

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