Red Cliff: What’s in it for us?
Aspen, CO Colorado
RED CLIFF, Colo. ” Tim Parks thinks a new ski resort next to Red Cliff would benefit the small town, and not just because resort residents and visitors may dine at his restaurant, Mangos Mountain Grill.
He needs customers to fill beds and to buy beer after construction is completed at his Green Bridge Inn, which would include a liquor store, but Parks has better reasons to support the Ginn Development Co. project, he said.
“I think the entire town of Red Cliff will benefit,” said Parks, a Red Cliff resident for almost two years.
In a town beset by financial problems, residents and the mayor talk hopefully of help from Ginn, which wants to build a private ski resort on Battle Mountain and employee housing on the north edge of town. Ginn wants Minturn to annex its property, but has repeatedly said it work in a “partnership” with Red Cliff. Both communities are located just southwest of Vail, on U.S. Highway 24.
Some residents remain skeptical in a town known for its reluctance to embrace Ginn. The town attorney and manager once brandished a petition signed by 19 people who opposed annexation of Ginn to Minturn.
Ron Mitchell moved to Red Cliff to get away from traffic along the stretch of Interstate 70, he said. Ginn construction traffic would take away from the reason he moved to Red Cliff.
“It’s just going to be a traffic nightmare for people going up and down this scenic byway,” Mitchell said.
An average of 2,930 more vehicles per day would pass through Minturn by 2023, up from 5,992 in 2006, according to a Ginn study. Even without the development, expect an average of 1,615 more cars per day, the study says.
Ginn does not know how many more vehicles would pass Red Cliff along Highway 24, but during construction and at build-out, Ginn has agreed that its workers and resort guests would use its main entrance near Gilman and would avoid going through Red Cliff.
“Unless Red Cliff wants us to go through Red Cliff, we will not go through Red Cliff,” said Bill Weber, Ginn senior vice president.
Ginn has told Red Cliff it will conduct a traffic study, but “we haven’t seen anything yet,” Red Cliff Mayor Ramon Montoya said.
Ginn’s traffic engineer will complete the study soon, Weber said.
Red Cliff wants to repair its wastewater treatment plant, expected to cost $2.3 million, Montoya said.
So far, federal, state and county grants account for $1.3 million ” the other $1 million could come from Ginn, Montoya said.
Red Cliff could build the plant without Ginn’s help, but would have to pay interest on some of the $1 million because a portion would come from a federal loan, he said.
Ginn has not committed to repairing Red Cliff’s wastewater plant, or anything else, he said.
Mitchell worries that property taxes would rise after construction of the Ginn development. “We’re going to suffer financially come tax time,” he said.
That Red Cliff is nestled between two world-famous ski resorts probably would have more to do with rising property values, said Dominic Mauriello, planner for Ginn.
“I don’t know that we can speculate on what causes property values to go up,” Mauriello said. “I think it’s just that the rest of the valley is built out.”
Some people want property values to go up, said Cliff Thompson, spokesman for Ginn.
Last year, Red Cliff’s property tax rate was 97.76 ” the highest of any town in Eagle County, though the rate in areas such as Cordillera are higher.
Ginn actually could decrease Red Cliff’s exorbitant tax rate, easing the burden on taxpayers, Parks said.
Parks points out that Red Cliff residents paid twice the tax rate that Vail residents paid.
Red Cliff has accumulated a hefty debt and Ginn’s wastewater treatment plant would help ease that, he said.
“Someday someone’s going to have to pay for all of this,” Parks said.
The plant would decrease the town’s debt, property tax rate and $129 minimum water bill, he said.
Ginn also would create jobs for Red Cliff residents, Parks said.
Ginn wants emergency services such as a fire and police station to be located near Red Cliff. That would decrease emergency response times and insurance rates for the town’s residents, according to Ginn officials.
Ginn is “dating” Minturn, not Red Cliff, Parks said.
And Montoya said that until Ginn has finished in Minturn, the company cannot commit to Red Cliff.
“It’s been frustrating,” Montoya said.
The company has met with Red Cliff town staffers “as often as we like,” Montoya said, though the mayor has not requested additional meetings because Ginn hasn’t committed to improvements, he said.
Ginn can meet in private with Red Cliff town staffers because the company is not dealing officially with the town. All meetings with Minturn town staffers must be open to the public. Ginn has held “two or three” public meetings in Red Cliff, Thompson said.
Maria Tucholke attended only one of those public meetings, but she thinks Ginn could communicate more with the town’s residents.
“I think there’s just a lot of misunderstanding and I think that’s why some people are for it and some people are against it,” Tucholke said. “That’s why I’m neutral, because I don’t think we have all the facts.”
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