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Opinion: High country businesses support wilderness

Economic benefits of quiet recreation are profound

Wilderness is good for business.

By Josh Lautenberg

Senator Mark Udall is right on target when he talks about the value of protected wilderness for our local economy.

Here in Vail, and in places like Aspen, Snowmass Village, Eagle and Breckenridge, our economy has prospered over the years in large part because of its location in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.

So how does wilderness support the economy?

Because of their famous majesty and beauty, the Rocky Mountains attract visitors from around the world. Think of all the people who can’t wait to leave behind the noise and pollution of the city to come here for their week or two in the mountains. To be able to smell the fresh air and stare at the perfect Colorado blue skies. Continue reading

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Summit Voice: Most-viewed and week in review

Flood warnings and wildfires dominated the headlines

A wildfire in Keystone Gulch burned to within a few hundred feet of this house on Soda Ridge Road, Summit County, Colorado.

SUMMIT COUNTY — This week’s most-viewed story list is kind of biblical, filled with warnings of floods and reports of wildfires near and far, but it does show that accurately reported and timely news is still one of the ingredients for success. But even though these stories dominated in terms of page views, we posted many other interesting stories this past week, some of which would have easily been in the top three nearly any other week. We’ve recently reported on plans for a new ice rink at Keystone and a zip line at Copper Mountain, and, as usual, offered a full slate of environmental stories. Scroll through the list of headlines and click if one of them catches your eye, then don’t forget to use the share button to spread the word via your own social media networks.

Breckenridge: USFS parcels back in play for land swap

Vicinity maps for the proposed Breckenridge land exchange.

Town would acquire Claimjumper and Wedge tracts in exchange for inholdings in the San Juan National Forest

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Two parcels of national forest land in the Breckenridge could come into town ownership as part of a land trade that would convey some private inholdings in the San Juan National Forest into public ownership. The town and the Forest Service signed a formal agreement to initiate on April 4.

Part of the 36-acre Claimjumper parcel would be developed for affordable housing, as an extension of the Pinewood Village complex. The rest is to be managed as open space. The entire 16-acre Wedge parcel would also be managed as open space in the environmentally sensitive Cucumber Gulch area. All the documents are online at the White River NF website. Continue reading

Summit County: Home-buying workshop set for May 19

Our Future Summit offers roundtable on financing, saving and more

Summit County home ownership can be attainable. Learn how with the May 19 Our Future Summit workshop.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local residents will have a chance to learn strategies for making home buying possible, staying in your home affordably, and selling your home profitably at this month’s Our Future Summit meeting.

“We will be discussing ways to make home ownership possible for those believe home ownership is out of reach,” said Our Future Summit founder Howard Hallman.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 pm. to 9 p.m. at the Summit County Community & Senior Center. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Planning for long-term sustainablity

Breckenridge Mayor John Warner: “This is going to be a living document, it’s not going to just go on a bookshelf someplace.”

crowd at Sustainable Breck open house

SustainableBreck Open House. PHOTO BY JENNEY COBERLY.

By Jenney Coberly

BRECKENRIDGE —Annual per capita water consumption has declined by nearly a third since 2000, down from about 250,000 gallons per person to less than 200,000 gallons — a good sign for the town’s long-term sustainability, according to a report released May 11.

To develop the plan, the town used a capacity analysis, envisioning how Breckenridge and Summit County will look in 2030 if things continue along the present course, covering everything from parking to wildlife. Can Breckenridge maintain both its unique character and economic health as it reaches buildout?

Continue reading

Photovoltaic systems add to home resale values

A new study suggests photovoltaic systems add to the resale value of homes. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY.

Berkeley Lab study quantifies economic benefits of solar installations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Adding a photovoltaic solar system to your home is a good environmental move, and now, new research by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that those homes sell for a premium over homes without solar systems.

“We find compelling evidence that solar PV systems in California have boosted home sales prices,” said lead author Ben Hoen, a researcher at Berkeley Lab. “These average sales price premiums appear to be comparable with the average investment that homeowners have made to install PV systems in California, and of course homeowners also benefit from energy bill savings after PV system installation and prior to home sale.”

The research finds that homes with PV in California have sold for a premium, expressed in dollars per watt of installed PV, of approximately $3.90 to $6.40/watt. This corresponds to an average home sales price premium of approximately $17,000 for a relatively new 3,100 watt PV system (the average size of PV systems in the Berkeley Lab dataset), and compares to an average investment that homeowners have made to install PV systems in California of approximately $5/W over the 2001-2009 period. Continue reading

Colorado to block new real estate investment scheme

Colorado to block private HOA transfer fees.

Watchdog groups say private HOA transfer fees pose a risk to fragile housing market; legislature set to ban the investment scheme

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado lawmakers are moving to join other states in blocking one of the newest unsavory real estate schemes to emerge after the collapse of the bubble.

Senate Bill 11-234 would ban private real estate transfer fees, which have been added to homeowner association covenants during the development phase to fund an investment scheme cooked up by Manhattan-based Freehold Capitol Partners.

The covenants are set up to require that a percentage of the sale price of a home be paid to a private 3d party every time the property is sold, typically for 99 years, explained Rachel Wolf, of the Land Title Association of Colorado. Freehold is attempting to bundle and securitize these fees, and sell them to Wall Street investors. Continue reading

Summit County number 3 on list of U.S. ‘ghost towns’

Census data leads Yahoo reporter to erroneous conclusion

Now THIS is a ghost town. Bodie, California, courtesy California State Parks.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — If a recent Yahoo.com story is to be believed, then Summit County ranks right up there with dilapidated cities in Maryland and abandoned rust-belt communities in Michigan as one of the country’s top-10 ghost towns.

The April 11 piece by Douglas A. McIntyre puts Summit County third on the list, behind Lake County, Michigan and Vilas County, Wisconsin, and just ahead of Worcester County, Maryland. According to the story, Summit County’s 61 percent vacancy rate is part of a nationwide trend reflecting, “how much the real estate disaster has turned certain areas in the country into ghost towns.”

Dramatically, the Yahoo story goes on to say that, These are the American Ghost Towns of the 21st century. Each has a population of more than 10,000 along with vacancy rates of more than 55%, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.”

It turns out, of course, that this story underscores the old adage that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. And it highlights the danger of reporters working purely off numbers (the piece was compiled from census data) without any contextual knowledge.

In fact, Summit County has always had a high “vacancy rate,” due to the high number of second homes that are not occupied year-round. It’s not likely that number has changed significantly as a result of the recession and housing bust.

Click here to read the story and leave a comment.

Summit Voice: Most-viewed stories, week in review

A lovely travel-themed photoblog by Jenney Coberly was one the most-viewed Summit Voice stories during the past few days. Check out all the headlines and don't forget to share them with friends on your own social media networks.

Radioactive rain, Gaper Day crackdown and new real estatel lending rules topped the news

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Our story on the early reports of radioactive rain in various parts of the country — a byproduct of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, — quickly picked up more than 1,000 page views, with referrals from Google News driving visitors to Summit Voice from around the world. Since then, of course, there have been new reports about radioactive milk, spurring additional concerns.

As an interesting sidelight, the story included links to both an EPA website with official radiation readings and reports, as well as an alt-news website in Canada that wasn’t quite as sanguine about the potential risks from the radiation. Summit Voice readers were clicking on the alternative news source just about twice as often as they went to the EPA link.

When I first got the press release from the Breckenridge Police Department about the April 1 “Gaper Day” crackdown, I thought it was actually an early April Fools story — but it wasn’t. Apparently there are some hardcore tourism types who don’t want any tourist feathers ruffled by the locals.

Check the rest of the most-viewed stories by clicking the headlines and scroll down for the editor’s picks of last week’s headlines.

Real Estate: Feds move on home mortgage rules

New mortgage rules are up for public comment.

“The intent of this rulemaking is not to kill private mortgage securitization — the financial crisis has already done that.”

~FDIC Chair Sheila Bair

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a move that will ultimately have long-term implications for the real estate market in Colorado and across the country, federal regulators this week announced one of their proposals to restructure home lending rules.

Click here to read the federal notice and to comment.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve now want public comment on the plan, which would require  lenders to offer mortgages with at least a 20 percent down payment if they want to repackage the loan to sell to other investors without keeping some of the risk on their books. Continue reading

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