City, Orton reach agreement on Emerald purchase | SteamboatToday.com

City, Orton reach agreement on Emerald purchase

586-acre land deal contingent on factors including GOCo grant, council approval

Mike Lawrence

— City officials have reached a signed contract with landowner Lyman Orton that represents a significant step toward Steamboat Springs' purchase of 586 acres on Emerald Mountain's north side.

Orton said Monday that the contract includes a $1.3 million upfront purchase price for the land, plus a clause stipulating that in the next five years, the city will match funds raised by a group called Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park for implementation of the site's master plan. The contract requires the city to provide funds up to a maximum of $750,000 throughout that time.

The contract would give the city a total five-year obligation of about $2.05 million, which would match the appraisal of the Orton parcel.

City government programs manager Winnie DelliQuadri confirmed Monday that a signed contract has been reached. City Attorney Tony Lettunich could not be reached to comment on contract details but likely will update the Steamboat Springs City Council on the contract at the end of tonight's council meeting in Centennial Hall on 10th Street.

Orton said he also plans to speak to the council about the contract tonight, possibly during the public comment portion at 7 p.m.

City Manager Jon Roberts said last week that any purchase agreement would be conditional upon the city's ability to use a $600,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and upon the council's approval of the deal in the form of an enabling ordinance. Approval of the ordinance would require two public hearings and City Council votes on first and second reading. Those votes could occur next month.

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Deb Hinsvark, the city's interim finance director, said should the city move forward with the purchase, and should the city receive the $600,000 from GOCo, the city's balance of $700,000 for the upfront cost would come from the city's capital improvements fund.

That fund will have about $3.8 million available in 2011, she said.

There were questions last week about whether the city would be able to reach an agreement in time to access the GOCo grant, which expires at the end of this year and requires as much as three months of due diligence work before funds can be released.

DelliQuadri said Monday's agreement should enable the city to access the $600,000 grant.

"I'm hopeful that we'll be able to do all the due diligence items in a timely manner and close in early December," she said.

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 586 acres he has 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 is 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.

A city purchase of the land would ensure permanent public access. In addition, Orton envisions a public facility that could be used by youth groups and as a Nordic skiing center in winter. He said Monday that the city's contributions of as much as $750,000 in the next five years would help make that vision a reality.

Orton said the purchase agreement also requires the city to enter into a contract with HEMP for long-term management of the site, in a structure he said could be similar to management of the city's Haymaker Golf Course.

Orton noted that the contract remains contingent on several factors in the coming weeks.

"It's a contract signed by staff … the City Council has to approve it and adopt an ordinance to do so," Orton said. "But I'm pleased that we're moving along. I look at this really as a positive step and hope to have an opportunity to speak briefly to (City) Council" tonight.

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