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Village at Wolf Creek public forum tonight

Village at Wolf Creek developers will appear in Pagosa Springs tonight to explain key details of their revised project plan, including discussion of the proposed 207-acre land exchange they say is critical to the project’s success.

Clint Jones, executive vice president of Hal Jones Development LLC, and Dusty Hicks, broker for Village at Wolf Creek Properties and Investments, LLC, will begin the presentation at 6:30 p.m. in the Extension Building at the county fairgrounds on U.S. 84.

Tonight’s forum follows in the wake of two similar events held in early October in Creede and South Fork, and marks another Jones’ push to generate public support for the revised plan and land exchange.

According to Jones, public and local government support for his revised development plan is critical to gaining U.S. Rep. John Salazar’s sponsorship for a congressional land exchange. A congressional land exchange, Jones said, would create greater predictability for Village financial backer Billy Jo “Red” McCombs, and would likely ease the Texas tycoon’s concerns that Village development may be thwarted again with protracted litigation or bureaucratic processes with the U.S. Forest Service.

Despite Jones and McCombs’ desire to run the land exchange through Congress with Salazar’s sponsorship, Jones has already embarked on a two-pronged process. The first: a Forest Service land exchange. The second: continuing to encourage Salazar’s sponsorship of a congressional exchange.

Jones has argued that the Forest Service exchange is fraught with uncertainty and could be years in the making, while the congressional exchange could provide a speedier resolution and greater predictability not just for McCombs, but also for area residents who have concerns regarding the project’s density, environmental impact and the socioeconomic and infrastructure pressures it may place on adjacent communities — particularly Pagosa Springs.

In either case — a legislative or Forest Service exchange — Jones argues both will go through an open and public process. Challenging criticism that a legislative land exchange would bypass the public, Jones has countered that both processes are equally inclusive and it is not his nor McCombs’s intent to sidestep any sort of input or oversight, be it legislative, from the public, or via the applicable state and federal oversight and review agencies.

A new Village plan

According to Jones, the new plan involves exchanging 207 acres of existing Village-owned land largely situated in and around Alberta Park and the lower half of the waterfall area for 207 acres just northeast of Alberta Park with frontage to U.S. 160.

Jones said wetlands make up about half the property he wants to give up, and aside from remedying wetlands issues, the exchange would add skiable terrain to the area, and may ease the Colorado Department of Transportation’s concerns regarding the Village’s access on to U.S. 160.

In addition, Jones said a successful exchange will allow him to build a “quaint, pedestrian-style village that is compatible with the ski area,” as opposed to the oft-criticized 10,000-person mountain metropolis plan currently on file with Mineral County.

Pointing to the new plan’s specifics, Jones said the number of proposed units — 491 at phase one — was derived from conversations with Wolf Creek Ski Area owner Davey Pitcher regarding how many additional skiers Pitcher could accommodate. According to Jones, the revised Village would grow in phases commensurate with future Wolf Creek Ski Area expansions, the area’s carrying capacity for accommodating additional skiers and the real estate market.

In an effort to define 491 units in human terms, Hicks said Mineral County land use regulations equate “one unit” with one condo, one single-family dwelling, three hotel rooms or a four-plex. That said, 500 units could mean as many as 2,000 people at phase one and as many as 6,800 people or 1,700 units at buildout.

james@pagosasun.com