County formally denies Eclipse ski park plan

By Ian Neligh
Posted 7/26/10

The Eclipse Snow Park’s development review was formally denied 2-to-1 by the Clear Creek County Commissioners on July 7, rubber stamping a vote last month to reject the proposal. However, an …

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County formally denies Eclipse ski park plan


The Eclipse Snow Park’s development review was formally denied 2-to-1 by the Clear Creek County Commissioners on July 7, rubber stamping a vote last month to reject the proposal.

However, an Eclipse representative has hinted that the issue of getting the proposed snow park approved may not be over.

Eclipse Snow Park LLC was seeking approval to develop a 12-acre ski/snowboard park at St. Mary’s Glacier that could accommodate up to 301 guests and employees daily during the ski season.

The vote for a resolution of denial was made during the commissioners’ regular meeting. Chairman Kevin O’Malley voted against the resolution.

However, at the request of Eclipse, the commissioners still considered approving the Activities of State Interest 1041 permit that evening.

Their conclusion was to revisit some of the language in the 1041 permit on July 28 at 9 a.m. The 1041 permit regulates environmental issues associated with a development.

Attorney and Eclipse representative Andrew Spielman indicated that the proposal — and the commissioners’ denial of the ski park — may be taken to the courts for a ruling.

“... This may not be a popular point but ... the final point in the land-use approval process, for better or for worse, is judicial review,” Spielman said. “The final word on the underlying development review application may or may not have been determined as final.”

Reasons for denial

The July 7 resolution denying the project review gives a host of reasons including:

• the development would cause an undue burden on public services related to life safety,

• Fall River Road is not maintained for snow removal after approximately 4 p.m. daily by County Road and Bridge Department,

• an adequate plan for road maintenance for winter after-hours was not provided by the applicant.

• the proposed development is located in a remote area that is difficult to provide law enforcement, ambulance and emergency services for, and county services cannot be relied upon to be available in the event of severe weather.

“Winter driving on Fall River Road often is dangerous now, especially during the period that Road and Bridge does not actively plow,” the resolution states. “Increased traffic, especially when drivers are not well-acquainted with the road, aggravates the danger.”

1041 Permit

Representatives for Eclipse requested that the county continue with the final part of the review process, which was a hearing on an Areas and Activities of State Interest 1041 permit.

A decision on the 1041 would not affect the board’s decision to turn down the snow park, according to county attorney Robert Loeffler.

However, Loeffler said, a 1041 is just as essential to a potential project as the approval of a development review.

A 1041 is a specific land development approval that gives municipalities and counties authority toward environmental issues associated with a development.

Review denial

In May and June, commissioners listened to proponents and opponents of the ski park proposal during two nights of public hearings.

The debate has generally been split between opponents living on Fall River Road concerned about traffic and safety issues and proponents living near St. Mary’s Glacier who favor the development.

The commissioners, citing safety issues as chief concerns, voted 2-1 to deny the development review, with O’Malley as the lone vote for approval.

Commissioner Joan Drury said before the final vote on the project review that the main reason she’s against it is because of the driving danger from Fall River Road.

“... It’s a dangerous road and there’s just no getting around it. ... The road is … a big issue for me, and I can’t support this at all because of that,” Drury said.

O’Malley said that outdoor recreation tends to occur in many cases in areas that are somewhat isolated in terms of access.

“This is not a unique situation at all, and it’s not even unique to Clear Creek County,” O’Malley said. “So my views have not changed.”

A snow park

 In 2005, Michael Coors purchased the St. Mary’s ski area, which had closed in 1988, for just under $2 million. His proposed snow park would consist of 12 acres.

The project originally was presented as catering to young adults, with, among other things, a half-pipe and music on the slopes.

In February 2009, Coors presented a scaled-down, more family-friendly version to reduce concerns about traffic and parking.

In May the Clear Creek County Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend approval of the ski park development, sending it to the county commissioners for a final decision.


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