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Breckenridge council approves Peak 6 deal

An early version of a map showing plans for new ski terrain on Peak 6.

Agreement addresses parking, traffic and housing impacts of ski area expansion, which is still under Forest Service review

By Bob Berwyn

BRECKENRIDGE — After more than a year of work by a collaborative community task force, the Breckenridge Town Council this week unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Breckenridge Ski Resort aimed at addressing social and socio-economic impacts of a proposed ski area expansion. Click here to read the full text of the agreement.

The agreement is intended to avoid negative impacts to the local employee housing market, the availability of health and human services, and parking and transportation infrastructure — all so-called quality of life issues that were identified in an outpouring of public comments when the resort first proposed the expansion a couple of year ago.

Summit County is also party to the agreement and previously approved the language, and resort officials have also indicated that they will sign the memorandum of understanding, Breckenridge town manager Tim Gagen said during the Dec. 14 council meeting.

The expansion itself is still being studied by the U.S. Forest Service, which hopes to release a draft environmental impact study in January 2011. Click here to read the latest update on the Peak 6 expansion plan.

In response to the initial wave of public comments, then-ski area chief Lucy Kay decided to convene the task force, which included town council members, county planners and representatives from the Breckenridge business community. Forest Service rangers also attended the meetings as observers.

In the early stages of the process, the Forest Service said it would incorporate the results of the task force work in its analysis, but it’s unclear what role exactly the agreement will play in the Forest Service process.

The task force talks highlighted some of the classic questions related to resort expansions and spanned a time frame when the ski industry saw a near-collapse of the real estate development market that fueled growth and profits for many years. Breckenridge voters also elected several new council members with a significantly different outlook on resort development.

During the talks, some of the task force members said the resort should focus on developing and improving facilities within its existing footprint rather than on adding new terrain.

Resort officials said the expansion isn’t intended to drive an increase in skier visits, but to help spread out existing traffic at the busiest ski area in the country, a line of reasoning that was greeted with skepticism from some task force members, who felt that expansion would mainly be used as a marketing device.

But in the end, it turned into the traditional love-fest between the town and the resort, who, whether they like it or not, are like conjoined twins when it comes to resort economics — especially in light of the recent economic downturn.

“We broached many subjects the Forest Service didn’t have to deal with and broke new ground in many areas,” said Breckenridge Mayor John Warner. “I think we touched on many things the community is concerned about. Did we solve them? Probably not, but we tried. It’s a document that serves as a framework for future collaboration. That’s why I’m going to vote for it,” Warner said.

“I’d echo that,” said council member Jeffrey Bergeron. “I think we brought to the table some impacts and some remedies,” he said, adding that he hopes the agreement will help the town and resort work together in addressing impacts of future projects, including development of the land around the base of the gondola.

Specifically, Breckenridge agreed that it would not do any commercial or residential development at the base of Peak 6 other than skier-service facilities approved by the Forest Service. The resort also agreed to forego any additional terrain expansions beyond Peak 6 unless specifically asked to do so by the town and county.

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