Emerald negotiations go on in Steamboat

City, Orton talk about purchase as GOCo grants time extension

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— There’s no news on a land buy yet, but city staff said Tuesday they’ve bought a little time in their negotiations with Lyman Orton about the potential purchase of 580 acres he owns on the north side of Emerald Mountain.

Steamboat Springs government programs manager Win­nie DelliQuadri said Tuesday that she’s in “very close communication” with Great Out­doors Colorado about the timeline for the city’s use of $600,000 in GOCo grant funds for the purchase, should it occur.

DelliQuadri has said the grant expires Dec. 13 and GOCo requires 90 days before that expiration to do its own due diligence before releasing funds.

That means that barring an extension or other such agreement, the city would have needed to submit a purchase contract to GOCo by Monday.

DelliQuadri said that timeline has been slightly extended.

She said the city is the fiscal agent on the grant for a multi-entity group that’s known as the Legacy Project. GOCo originally awarded the group about $2 million for three land conservation purchases. Two of those purchases, which involved about $1.4 million, fell through.

DelliQuadri said Steve Nagy, GOCo’s program manager for land acquisitions, told her that a formal letter “closing out” the $1.4 million — letting GOCo know those deals aren’t happening — would extend the city’s timeline for filing documents regarding an Emerald Mountain purchase.

But not by much.

“At some point, I expect (Nagy) to say ‘Well, it’s now or never’, in terms of their money,” DelliQuadri said. “That point is any day now.”

Orton is offering to sell 580 acres appraised at about $2 million to the city. He owns a total of about 1,200 acres on Emerald’s north side — south and west of the Fairview neighborhood and south of 13th Street, also known as Twentymile Road. The 580 acres he’s offered to the city are outside of city limits and directly west of the dirt portion of Blackmer Drive that winds up the mountain from Fairview. The acres are under a conservation easement through the Yampa Valley Land Trust. Orton long has allowed public use of the land for recreation such as hiking and mountain biking.

The acres for sale include numerous singletrack trails, Heart Meadow, a large upper meadow and many areas popular with mountain bikers and trail runners.

Land Trust Executive Di­­rector Susan Dorsey has said that instead of selling the land to the city, Orton theoretically could sell it to a private owner who would have the option of closing public access.

Orton has not placed the parcel on the open market.

A city purchase of the parcel permanently would allow public use of the popular hiking and mountain biking area but comes at a time of an extremely tight city budget.

Orton declined Tuesday to comment on the negotiations.

“We’ve been talking … that’s really all I’ve got to say right now,” he said. “I’m coming back to Steamboat (today) — we’ll see what happens.”

DelliQuadri said the $600,000 from GOCo is crucial to the city’s ability to purchase Orton’s land.

“I would say, yeah, without the GOCo dollars … it’s done,” she said.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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