In 1979 we heard that some guys from Vail had bought into the Telluride Ski Resort. We’d heard that one before. It seemed that there was always someone negotiating with Zoline. One guy had even turned out to be an international terrorist who hijacked freighters on the seas and was the most wanted individual in the world according to Interpol.
What was different this time was that I noticed there was a new guy in town driving a beat up Volvo who was always yelling hello to me from across the street or waving to me as he passed me in his car. Finally, someone told me that the guy was Ron Allred and as I was the Chairman of the San Miguel County Planning Commission—he was my newest best friend.
When we finally met in person it was a great throw-down. I was very excited that the powers of the universe had finally delivered to my door a young, super aggressive, charismatic, full of piss and vinegar developer who wanted to do something—no let’s say “hell and high water wouldn’t stop him from doing this deal”. And Allred, looking me over, he thought “Thank you lord, for delivering up to me a young, aggressive, inexperienced community leader to work with on rezoning the Ski Resort who has his heart and soul invested here and three hungry children to feed.”
Little did either of us know that we would grow to be like brothers, both hate and love over the next twenty five years. Boy, did we have some fun, fight some battles and dance some jigs (we are both Scotish/Irish and dancing is an intense sport).
Since we had completed TREPAC a lot of the preliminary work was out of the way. Allred and his team (Ron and Ike Shishler) did the whole deal. We never really saw anyone else. On occasion, Jim Wells would visit from Avon, but he was not a player in the zoning years.
Tommy Smith, the San Miguel County Planning Director, was really good. He came up with an agenda which proved to be brilliant. The agenda laid out the issues to be considered: everything from transporation, ski area improvements, employee/affordable housing, fireplaces and air pollution, wildlife concerns, water, sewer, dogs, density—you name it.
The concept was to attack the issues one-by-one. From a public perception and participation viewpoint it worked wonderfully. The all day meetings were held during the week and the public was included. It wasn't necessary to attend every meeting in order to keep up with what was going on. For instance, if their issue was wildlife then they were notified well in advance that our next agenda item was wildlife and they could come and participate.
The other rule was that we didn’t move on to the next item until everyone agreed to move on, including the public. I remember, as Chairman, saying, “If no one has anything more to say on this issue then we are prepared to move on to our next item on the list at our next meeting.” I’d sit there for a while and look up and down the commission to see if anyone had anything and then I’d look out at the audience which sometimes was hundreds of people and sometimes ten or twenty.
Two and one-half years later, having gone through every conceivable concern in this orderly manner, we had a meeting in the County Court Room which was the town’s largest meeting facility at the time. There was a packed crowd . This was probably the fifth meeting where we had announced that we were doing the final analysis and taking final comments from the public—only this one had been specifically billed and written up in the newspaper as “last chance.” Interestingly, it was the general public that was the saving grace and the hero’s in the saga, not the attorneys or realtors who never ever came or participated, but just the common person that cared about the community and its future. One person in particular that I remember was Terry Selby, who cared about air quality. He came to every meeting for months to talk about air quality and he made a difference in the outcome. He cared and we listened—the system worked.
So, after several hours of public comment that day I looked at the audience, making eye contact with many individuals on both sides of the issue and said slowly, “Is there anyone that has anything to add who hasn’t had an opportunity to speak or is there anyone who has something to add that they believe has not been said by someone else?”
We sat minutes while the weight of the question and the importance of the day and hour sunk in—I waited.
“If no one has anything else to say, does anyone on the Commission have anything to say?”When no one said anything, I asked each committee member individually and each said, “No.”
I then said, “OK, we are going to Vote.”
“All in favor?” “Motion for approval carries. Four to zero. This meeting is adjourned.”
There was actually applause from people on both sides of the issue. Not an uproar, but recognition of the effort and the thousands of hours spent by the public, the Commission and the applicant and for a job that had been done to the best of all of our abilities--fairly, honestly, and transparently.
We all went to a party at the Telluride Company and I do mean all of us. Both for and against were together. There was no hate or threats of revenge or cries of foul play. We were all a bit apprehensive of what the future would bring, but we all knew we were off on a “new day” adventure and it was about time. It had been almost a hundred years since Telluride’s mining high point when the town was vibrant and exciting and it had come close to not having another chance to shine.
Some interesting tidbits:
Wildlife preservation and wildlife movement corridors were concerns that were raised as part of the Mountain Village zoning process. These concerns, as addressed by the community and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, created Raspberry Patch Subdivision. The concept was that deer and elk would be able to travel from their historical wintering and calving habitat up through Raspberry Patch to their historical summer areas in upper Turkey Creek Mesa and the Gold Hill area of the ski resort. Raspberry Patch has few houses, large lots and no fences.
As part of the zoning for the Mountain Village, we established a Transferable Development Rights (TDR) rule which allowed the Planning Commission to move densities around in the Telluride Region. An example of one TDR was Elk Run Subdivision. Originally the area was part of the Telluride Ski Ranches and zoned by Zoline prior to the county adopting zoning regulations. It was zoned for about a 125 lots and homes and would have looked like more Telluride Ski Ranches. The TDR legislation gave us the ability to build just 30 lots and houses in Elk Run, which was also good for wildlife, and move the remaining density to the Mountain Village.
Another, TDR was moving a 200 room hotel that Bob Garber had zoned for Last Dollar Subdivision prior to adopted zoning. The move created the 12 single family lots which are now the eastern homes and lots at Last Dollar and moved the density to Lot 126 in the Mountain Village which interestingly, is now being planned for a hotel.
In spite of what some people say, the Mountain Village turned out pretty much as planned. There are some changes that have occurred over time but they are all pretty much tied to economic demands and changes. The Village Core was originally planned to be much denser and more people friendly with concepts like a planned Artist’s Village, affordable housing for locals and historical and cultural tie-ins. However, the money to keep the doors open was being generated by single family lot sales and so we got more sprawl and less true open space. This in turn caused the infrastructure costs to skyrocket and profit margins to evaporate as the Company built longer and longer roads, water, sewer, electrical etc. and more very expensive bridges to go over ski trails to get to the lots creating a huge increase in car and traffic problems, upkeep and maintenance problems and stressed the wildlife. At some point in the future, the Mountain Village is going to have 7500 people there for Christmas. The main road in from Highway 145 will some day have to be four lanes. Some of these problems have to do with the gutting of the TREPAC agreements.
If TREPAC had been executed as planned, a person in the Town of Telluride, or the Mountain Village could get on a gondola and with a couple of switches at base stations, go to the Telluride Airport and on to the World without a car, a bus, or a van.
Kids would have been able to go to school from West Meadows, Aldasoro, and the Valley Floor without school buses or the endless stream of cars delivering them into town each morning. Hikers could have reached backcountry trail heads without getting into cars like the ones we see parked in town at the Jud Wiebe trailhead on Aspen and Oak and going to dinner at a restaurant or someone’s home would have been a lot less harrowing by simply riding the gondola or the electric train and never having to get in a car.
The affordable housing program would have turned out differently. It was planned that each of the major developments would build affordable/employee housing for a minimum of 15% of the population and build it as it was needed.