Steamboat's Emerald Mountain deal near

City's purchase could include Nordic center cost-share aspect

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— City officials said Friday that they expect to have a purchase agreement for the 580-acre Orton parcel on the table for signatures by Monday, but the deal might involve more than simply a land transaction.

City Manager Jon Roberts said City Attorney Tony Lettunich had told him to expect the nonbinding deal Monday in time to make the deadline for a $600,000 grant application with Great Outdoors Colorado.

“It’s exciting,” Roberts said. “We should have it ready to package up and send to GOCo.”

He was quick to add that the purchase agreement would be conditional upon the city’s ability to land the GOCo grant and City Council’s approval of the deal in the form of an enabling ordinance. Approving the ordinance would require two public hearings and City Council votes on first and second reading.

The negotiations that continued Friday and perhaps into this weekend likely involve property owner Lyman Orton’s vision for the 580 acres on Emerald Mountain. Orton envisions a public facility that could be used by youth groups and as a Nordic skiing center in winter.

City Council Pre­s­­ident Pro Tem Jon Quinn said he originally thought that the purchase of the Orton property was a straight land transaction that would bring the property’s hiking and biking trails on the property into the public realm. However, in the last week, he’s learned that the proposed deal entails terms that might call for the city and Orton to share the cost of building a public facility for youth groups and a Nordic touring center on the land.

“I think the ongoing negotiations are probably more about what happens with Lyman’s vision” than about the (purchase) price, Quinn said. “It’s more complicated than we initially knew. Lyman didn’t want to just sell the property. He’s looking 10 years down the road.”

Quinn said Orton might be willing to return some proceeds of the land sale back into the cost of building a public facility.

City Councilwoman Meg Ben­­t­­­ley confirmed Quinn’s perception of the cost-sharing aspects of the land deal, and she expressed her enthusiasm for the idea.

“Of all the land deals that have taken place while I’ve been on City Council, this would be my favorite,” she said. “I’m not an open space-at-all-costs person, and some of the matching grants for real estate in the past were pretty far out there. But if we can possibly get this one, I think it will be absolutely incredible for the city of Steamboat Springs.”

Quinn also expressed enthusiasm for the concept of building the public facility on the Orton property but was cautious about the city funding the project.

“I think the long-term vision Lyman has set is really a good one. I’d love to se a Nordic center up there,” Quinn said. “It’s good for the economy. I think there’s enthusiasm about the vision. It’s about how do we get there?

“Every dollar has to be carefully scrutinized right now. In front of us at the moment is a land deal. I don’t know if there’s a way to fund the vision piece. Our capital reserves aren’t in great shape, and I don’t know if I foresee that situation improving in the near future.”

Reached by phone Friday, Orton said negotiations were continuing.

“I haven’t signed anything,” he said. “We’re busy going back and forth practically as we speak.”

Attorney Bob Weiss, who is representing Orton in the negotiations, said he thinks it is premature to say the parties have reached an agreement in principal.

“Lyman would like to see the city own the property so there can be continued access to it by the public for hiking and biking,” Weiss said. “I think the city realizes the importance of the property. Everybody’s trying to find a way to do this and acting with good faith and enthusiasm.”

Orton was seeking a little more than $2 million for the property he proposes to sell 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 land previously was placed under a conservation easement held by the Yampa Valley Land Trust that does not ensure public access. However, Orton has allowed public use of the land for recreation such as hiking and mountain biking.

One of the considerations likely being weighed by the city is whether a future private owner would extend that same consideration to the public.

Bentley said if it turns out the city can’t afford Orton’s ultimate vision for the land, the deal won’t happen. But she thinks it would represent a form of economic development.

“If it’s out of our league, then we can’t do it,” she said. “But we can’t continue to advertise Steamboat the way we always have. We have to increase our market share in different groups of people all over the world. We have our (elite) Nordic athletes out there waving the flag and in terms of turning Steamboat into a Nordic destination, and having a family Nordic center up there that could be used by youth groups in the summer, I think it would help businesses and the community. I can’t see a thing wrong with it.”

Quinn said he would wait to see how the deal put in front of him Monday is structured before drawing any conclusions about the purchase agreement.

Comments

beentheredonethat 4 years, 3 months ago

another waste of my tax money. this purchase, should it go through, satisfies a WANT and not a NEED for citizens. after this lets spend money on a recreation center........where does this nonsense end? there are plenty of hiking trails out there that already belong to U.S. citizens in the form of national forest and wilderness areas.

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John Fielding 4 years, 3 months ago

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We should certainly promote this vision as well as we can while still maintaining essential city services and not exacting a portion of the purchase price from the many who cannot afford it, will never use it, and will not benefit from its acquisition.

There are a number of other ways that the land can be secured for fulfillment of the vision, city ownership is only one, and it is the only one that can compel the participation of the unwilling and unable. For that reason alone it must not be used without being able to demonstrate a substantial benefit to a very large percentage of our citizens.

At the very least there should be a public vote, is it too late to get one into this Novembers elections?

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1999 4 years, 3 months ago

btdt...weren't you just railing for a DH trail? isn't that a want?

emerald is what makes steamboat.

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exduffer 4 years, 3 months ago

Ahhh, the rich just keep getting richer, and the poor...

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years, 3 months ago

What's the problem? You get 2,000 people to invest $1,000 each. Some folks eagerly spend $4,000 for a Moots, $12,000 for a snowmobile.

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John Fielding 4 years, 3 months ago

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At the risk of being repetitive, these questions I posted earlier have yet to be answered.

Is the land completely protected from development, and if so what comparable sales have been used to justify the appraisal?

Approximately how much use is made of the land and what is a reasonable value of that? For instance is it at a level of, say 100 users per day? 20? A dollar per use? $5?

Can we raise sufficient funds in the long run for this from the users instead of the general public by the sale of access licenses for bicycles and passes for skiers?

Will we consider a user fee like the tennis bubble, hockey rink or Howelsen ski area?

Can we propose an lease with option to purchase, that option transferable to any entity that will keep the land in the intended use?

Can we purchase a permanent access easement that will remain valid regardless of who owns the land? Let's have an appraiser calculate how much the value would be with such an easement and we'll have a rough idea of what we should offer for it.

Can we wait, will Mr. Orton offer it elsewhere? If he still owns it at the end of his life, will his considerable generosity have continued to grow till he makes it a bequest, a legacy to his memory?

If it is offered elsewhere can we then negotiate with other prospective purchasers to supply their down payment in exchange for our access easement?

Does the city government have the authority to make this purchase without specific voter approval?

What would be the maintenance cost be, and would it require an increase in the P&R budget?

Would all the land, as well as the rest of HEMP be for young and able bodied users only, or will access for those unable to bike or ski uphill also be considered?

What percentage of the city budget could be dedicated to the P&R without seriously compromising fire and police, roads and bridges, water and sewer etc? Have we reached that limit?

Could a decision to proceed be called to public vote after the fact like the 700 issue was?

If the city authorities proceed without addressing these and other questions and making the answers well publicized it will be a violation of their trust on a scale similar to the Iron Horse. Let us not be pressured by some grant deadline, it will come around again next year, and the year after. Let's have real community support for the decision we make. .

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mtroach 4 years, 3 months ago

john you make some good points,but to compair saving parkland to the iron horse is incorrect. First let's start with all the press this transaction has already has, the iron horse was done in secret session, and the public only learned about it after the bad bond deal was set.

I can't answer to your other points except to say that the orton property probbally sees more users than any official park in steamboat. Even of you never go onto the property, maintaining space for wildlife, and views should be important for everyone. Let's also not forget that once upon a time skiing from the boat tow was all the way from the top of Quarry mt. So this mountain carries deep history here in ski town usa and I for one am overjoyed that it has a good chance to finally become public property.

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1999 4 years, 3 months ago

mt roach...I am all for the deal but am very afraid that the city will somehow mess it up IF it is ever made public property.

almost inevitable really...sadly

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sledneck 4 years, 3 months ago

"Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."

As BTDT has correctly said, this is a want, not a need. His/ her question was where does this nonsense end. The answer is simple... BANKRUPTCY!

We won't have schools. We won't have money for new buses, police or infrastructure. We won't have money for the Iron Horse payment.

But it's all o.k. cause we got some land for some of us to ride our bikes on and for some of us to ski on. And the best part is that the bikers and skiers took money from the non-bikers annd skiers to make it all happen. Yeah, that seems fair.

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1999 4 years, 3 months ago

sled...we all pay for things we don't like all the time.

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exduffer 4 years, 3 months ago

Jeff are you talking about the guy at Kum and Go that took 8 pennies out of the penny jar so he wouldn't have to break a dollar? He then walked out to his $50,000 BMW with what looked like a $6,0000 Moots on top.

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