Minturn voters back private ski resort
Aspen, CO Colorado
MINTURN, Colo. ” Residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to include a developer’s land into Minturn, a result that solidifies Bobby Ginn’s plans to build a private ski-and-golf resort on Battle Mountain.
On 11 ballot questions, an average of 87 percent of voters chose to annex Ginn’s 4,300 acres of property into the town of Minturn. Only an average of 13 percent of voters voted no.
“Eighty-seven percent success is amazing and it shows that the residents of this town support what the council did,” Town Councilwoman Shelley Bellm said.
Ginn wants to build 1,700 homes and condominiums, a private ski area the size of Beaver Creek without Bachelor Gulch and an 18-hole golf course south of Minturn, a small community southwest of Vail. Town Council members will vote again, possibly later this year, on whether to finally approve Ginn’s plans.
Voters said Ginn could have made a deal with nearby Red Cliff or Eagle County, leaving Minturn with less control over a development they said would affect their town the most.
“You don’t invest that kind of money without getting some kind of development,” said Jim Kleckner, a Minturn resident who voted yes. “We can be at least part of our destiny.”
Voters also said they approved Ginn because the developer has promised the town more than $162 million in benefits. That money is supposed to go toward a recreation center, library, new sidewalks, a paved bike path from Dowd Junction to Red Cliff, a new water and wastewater treatment plant, scholarships for Minturn residents and other benefits.
“That’s what I think is unfortunate is that everybody’s looking at the dollar signs,” said Minturn resident Frank Lorenti, who with fellow resident Pete Vance, gathered enough signatures for a petition that sent the vote to a referendum.
Lorenti had urged residents to vote no, but he also said he wanted to residents to have a say after the Town Council voted to annex Ginn’s 4,300 acres into the town in February.
“I just wanted it to be a big turnout and I think it was,” Lorenti said.
Fewer than 50 people voted against Ginn and Lorenti said that meant some people still disapproved.
“It’s not like you can say it was 100 percent,” Lorenti said.
Few residents said they voted against Ginn as they left Minturn Town Center on the warm, sunny day.
Kaeley Lovato, who has lived in Minturn for years, voted yes on all 11 ballot questions. Voters were asked whether the town should annex nine pieces of Ginn’s property into the town and whether to authorize the mayor to sign an annexation and wastewater service agreement.
Lovato hopes to raise her young son, Michael, in Minturn, so she hopes the $350,000 slated for scholarships could help provide him a college education in the future.
That’s one of the reasons she voted yes, she said.
“I’m not looking forward to all the traffic, but I think I can deal with it,” she said.
Minturn’s traffic will increase by almost half in the next 16 years, according to Ginn’s projections. Traffic will increase even without the project, Ginn has said.
“It’s a no brainer ” something’s going to happen there no matter what, and we’ll get some good things out of this,” said Lynn Meyer, who voted in favor of the resort. “People are already complaining about traffic. Of course there will be more traffic, but what wouldn’t bring in more traffic? We’ll have to live with it.”
Casey Bingham said most people he knows voted yes, including himself.
“I guess I’m glad we’re voting, but most people I know have supported it from the beginning,” Bingham said.
Father Hugh Guentner of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Minturn voted yes and was glad other residents got to vote, too. He thinks the development could bring more Catholics to the church.
“It’s going to mean the same thing for us as it does for the town ” change,” Guentner said. “We don’t know what that’s going to bring other than we hope all the good that has been promised.”
Stuart Brummett ” a critic of Ginn’s plans to build an up to 195-foot-tall building near Bolts Lake, south of downtown Minturn ” voted yes.
“I voted more yes for Minturn to be the governing body of the project,” Brummett said.
Brummett voted by absentee ballot, which he got from Minturn Citizens for Annexation, a group formed to support Ginn. The group, of which Brummett was a member, had been giving residents applications for absentee ballots.
“I think the biggest thing is our town needs a reasonable tax base in order to be able to do some of the things that we as citizens want to see happen,” Brummett said.
Minturn will get $6 million in tax revenue the second year after the project is approved and $6 to $10 million each year after five years, a Ginn representative has said.
Minturn has run on no more than a $1.5 million annual budget during Mayor Gordon “Hawkeye” Flaherty’s long tenure, Flaherty has said.
Bobby Ginn, chief executive officer of Ginn Resorts, said he welcomed the vote.
“Now we plan to get to work delivering on our promises to help Minturnites maintain their small-town character while looking forward to a bright future,” Ginn said. “Tonight is just the beginning.”
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.