Emerald deal delayed as GOCo asks Steamboat to modify application

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— Proceedings for the city’s potential purchase of 586 acres on the north side of Emerald Mountain likely will extend into 2011.

Great Outdoors Colorado asked the city of Steamboat Springs on Wednesday to modify its application for a $600,000 grant related to the parcel owned by Lyman Orton, citing changes to the grant proposal that GOCo originally approved in 2007. GOCo also asked the city to request an extension of the timeline for the grant, which expires Dec. 13. City officials can request the modification and extension at a Dec. 8 meeting of GOCo’s board of directors.

GOCo spokeswoman Chris Leding said Wednesday that if the board approves the modification and extension, there would not be time for GOCo to finalize and close the grant in 2010.

“That just is not going to be possible from GOCo’s point of view,” Leding said. “We’re just physically not going to be able get it done if the board says they’re willing to move ahead with the modification and the extension.”

GOCo was created through a citizens initiative and approved by state voters in 1992. It uses a portion of lottery proceeds to help preserve, protect, enhance and manage parks, rivers, trails and other open spaces. It has awarded more than 3,000 grants across Colorado, according to its website.

City government programs manager Win­nie Delli­­Quadri said GOCo’s request could delay the city’s potential closure on the Emer­ald Mountain parcel by two to three months. But that timeframe was a guess, she said.

Many factors, including Steam­­­­boat Springs City Coun­cil approval, remain to be decided regarding the city’s purchase of the popular recreation site where Orton and the Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park group envision a destination Nordic center, year-round trail system, youth programs and more.

The 586 acres could cost the city about $1.4 million throughout the next five years if the city receives the $600,000 GOCo grant.

The city reached a purchase agreement with Orton on Sept. 20. DelliQuadri said the city then submitted a purchase contract to GOCo.

That submittal spurred GO­­Co’s review and Wednesday’s request to the city, she said.

DelliQuadri said GOCo was not able to request the modification and extension earlier because the city had not yet submitted materials for review.

“We had to do what we did for them to be in the position to respond,” DelliQuadri said.

City officials scrambled in recent weeks to reach an agreement with Orton and submit documentation to GOCo in time to allow for the due diligence needed to finalize the $600,000 grant.

“We’re providing the city an opportunity to keep the grant alive,” Leding said about Wednesday’s GOCo action. “Obviously, this deal came together kind of at the last minute.”

Fluid process

City attorney Tony Lettunich said in an e-mail that GOCo’s modification request “is based on GOCO’s view that in 2007 the acquisition was described as a parcel up to 700 acres that included 70 acres of unencumbered property.”

The 586 acres involved in the city’s purchase agreement with Orton are under a conservation easement through the Yam­­pa Valley Land Trust. An adjoining 70 acres are not under a conservation easement and would be the site of a community lodge envisioned by the Howel­­sen Emer­ald Mountain Park group.

Orton has said those 70 acres were not included in the current purchase agreement because their capability for development would have created too steep a price for the city.

The 586 acres were appraised at just more than $2 million. The purchase agreement stipulates an up-front cost of $1.3 million, which pending GOCo and City Council approval would include the $600,000 grant and $700,000 from the city’s capital improvement funds. The agreement also requires the city to match funds raised by the Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park group for the next five years, providing as much as $150,000 per year and not to exceed $750,000. Those matching funds would help implement the group’s vision for the parcel.

Orton told City Council members last week that those matching funds could have uses including the future purchase of the 70 acres.

Leding said GOCo determined the changes to the original grant are significant enough to require the board’s review.

“This project is different than what had been proposed in the original legacy proposal,” Leding said. “One of the things I think we’ll look at is are we going to get the same kind of conservation values as were proposed in the original deal.”

DelliQuadri said she still will present the purchase contract, in the form of a first reading of an ordinance for approval, to the City Council on Tuesday. She also will continue to complete due diligence items needed for the city to receive the grant, and said she’ll submit the modification request to GOCo by its Nov. 11 deadline.

“What it means for us is, really, we’re continuing on our same path. We had scheduled to bring it to City Council, and we’re going to do that,” she said about Wednesday’s news. “From my perspective, it’ll still be a push to get all the due diligence items together. That hasn’t changed.”

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