Mountain Village Gaining Momentum in Battle for Economic, Cultural Advantage

07/23/14 | By | More

MV Council Approves Land Conveyance for Proposed Telluride Science Research Center Facility

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE - Giving Mountain Village an apparent advantage over Telluride in a prolonged bidding war over where to build a new Telluride Science Research Center facility, the Mountain Village Town Council last week approved a three-party agreement with TRSC and the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association that would effectively donate land for the proposed campus.

Mountain Village’s bold move in offering land to TSRC comes as the two towns compete over where a new Telluride Medical Center will be built. Late last month, the Telluride Hospital District announced Telluride was not a finalist in its search for a site for a new clinic, largely because Telluride declined to submit a formal response to a Request for Information. The district has scheduled a public forum for Aug. 12 to review proposals from Mountain Village and two property owners in Lawson Hill.

The agreement to provide land for the TRSC in Mountain Village conveys a right of way owned by the town to TMVOA accessing two TMVOA parcels where a new TSRC campus could be built.  The two parcels are near the parking lot gondola station, across Mountain Village Boulevard from the Elkstone Condominiums, and would be the home to a facility that will “resemble a mini-university,” says TSRC Director Nana Naisbitt.

Naisbitt explains that the proposed center “will contain common areas like a private cafe, comfortable lounge areas and semi-private offices.

“For larger science meetings, we envision a tiered auditorium seating between 200-250 scientists, and for our graduate-level schools, an auditorium seating up to 80 students. We need six classrooms as well and a central administrative office.”

Although securing a site marks a huge step toward getting the project off the ground, the TRSC will first have to raise an estimated $20 million for construction.

The Mountain Village agreement stipulates that the land use is contingent on TSRC meeting requirements for fundraising and obtaining development approval for construction of the new facility.

Battle of the Towns

Another obstacle Mountain Village may face in the quest to secure the new science center is Telluride.

In an interview this week, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser said that although “TSRC’s relocation anywhere in the region will benefit the region, it would be a huge economic loss to Telluride if the TSRC moved to Mountain Village.”

He continued, rather cryptically, that “We have been in talks with Nana Naisbitt until recently, and it’s not over ’til it’s over.”

Recent comments made by Naisbitt confirm Fraser’s statement: “TSRC is still in conversation with both towns about the new science center,” she said Tuesday. “No final decision has been made as to TSRC’s permanent location.”

Adding fuel to the fire is a similar competition over the location of the new Telluride Medical Center.

On June 23, Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger submitted a letter to the hospital district summarizing the council’s position on the matter, stating that the district’s location selection process was too accelerated and did not allow for enough public input/discussion to take place regarding the future of the proposed site of the Medical Center in Telluride.

While Geiger’s letter stated that Telluride remained a possible site for the future medical facility, he cautioned that the town’s approvals process and the hospital district’s location selection process were not matching up.

Fraser agreed this week that the problems with the Hospital District seem to be inherent in the procedures.  “Council still wants the Med Center in town,” he said, “but the hospital just doesn’t seem to be working with us.”

He did go on to say, however, “We are still in discussions, and, like I said about the science center, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Fraser says that the council will conduct a mid-August worksession to continue exploring options for keeping the Medical Center in Telluride.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Mountain Village Town Council, Mayor Dan Jansen expressed the hope that his council’s action would push TSRC farther along the road toward choosing Mountain Village as its new home.

Bringing the TRSC to Mountain Village, Jansen said,  would be “a win-win-win for the town, its residents and the TSRC. This project will broaden the economy, keep a great institution in town and in the event of failure, there are safeguards.”

Concerns About Mountain Village

Some people who attended the Mountain Village Council meeting on Thursday expressed misgivings about the agreement.

Bruce Macintire, president of the Trail’s Edge HOA, spoke on behalf of the people living in the Elkstone 21 condominiums, voicing concern that the new structure might impede mountain views.

“There are tons of questions from people in the subdivision about what this new center will look like, he said, and “We are desperate for more information.”

Macintire said that he wants science to stay in the community, and urged council to reconsider putting the new center in the Mountain Village Core.

“The Core is starving for something real,” he argued, “because everything there is artificial. I’d love to see something like a science center there just to give it something real.”

Neisbitt responded: “The scientists are looking for an oasis campus, and the Mountain Village Core is not conducive to their work or science.”

Jansen also argued that the TSRC “would be a blessing to have as a neighbor.”

“If TSRC doesn’t take those lots, there are still other parties who can build on them in a way that will affect neighbors and the community far more negatively than the low-rise, low-impact quiet campus TSRC seeks to build, such as a high-rise family development,” Jansen said.

Perhaps the most vehement opposition the proposed Mountain Village location for TSRC came from local attorney and Elkstone resident, Lauren Harrison.

In a letter she penned to council that was read during public comment, she wrote that “there is a lack of evidence the supposed benefits will outweigh the significant costs and liabilities this plan will impose on the community.”

“TSRC has no limits on how it will use the property and can change the property’s use anytime it wants, or sublease the property to anyone it wants,” she wrote.

Harrison voiced reservations about a lack of meaningful design review by TMVOA, and called upon TMVOA to “offer proof this will benefit the community.” She concluded that “This is exactly the type of thing that can bankrupt a community.”

In response to her litany of concerns, Naisbitt herself stepped to the podium and expressed a desire to meet with Harrison to “correct and address so much of the misinformation in her letter to council.”

Overwhelming Support

Despite concerns, most of the comments from citizens and council members were in overwhelming support of the effort to bring TRSC to Mountain Village.

Councilor Dave Schillaci commented that “a stronger Mountain Village economy means a stronger regional economy” and went on to call the relocation a “no brainer.”

Phil Evans, a full-time resident of Mountain Village, and Audrey Marnoy, a Mountain Village homeowner and member of the TSRC board, offered public support in favor of the agreement, based on intangible factors above and beyond the economic impact.

“The intellectual and cultural aspects that this organization represents for our community makes this worth it,” Evans said.

Marnoy encouraged everyone in the room to recognize the opportunity, and stressed the cultural and intellectual significance of having TSRC directly in Mountain Village, and having all the scientists gathering in the town.

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  1. zaphod says:

    Relax Stu, Telluride is the big winner in this. Mountain Village loses 2.5 acres and another 2.1 million in fee waivers and subsidies – meanwhile Telluride gets to keep it’s 4 million in land and saves another 4 million in subsidies and waivers.
    Additionally, Mountain Village has to pay the cost of tearing up its new main road so that TSRC can build on top of it and reroute all traffic into the backyard of 50 of its homeowners. Mountain Village will collect no lodging taxes because of TSRC’s tax-exempt status, and any sales tax collected on souvenirs and trinkets will most likely occur in Telluride. Mountain Villager homeowners will even have to pick up the tab on transporting the scientists to Telluride on the “free” gondola. Well played Telluride!

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