Sunlight sale could include Fourmile land
Residential development envisioned for Sunlight Mountain Resort could extend into the Fourmile Park area under a plan hatched after the ski area went up for sale.A man owning more than 1,300 acres between Sunlight Peak and Bald Mountain decided to market his land in conjunction with the resort because of the possibility that a buyer might want to make use of both properties, said David Keller, owner of Littleton-based Steel-Velvet Investments.Keller represents the property owner, Gene Hilton, who is from the Denver area. He said Hilton had been quietly trying to sell the land before Sunlight announced its plans late last year. After that, agents for both properties agreed it made sense to market them together, in case a major developer wanted to make use of both of them.Hilton hadn’t previously considered that possibility. But the ski area already has a development plan in place, and Hilton’s property “could be very valuable to that,” Keller said.Sunlight went up for sale last fall for $50 million. The asking price is based largely on the prospect that a buyer might be able to develop 780 homes on some 400 acres owned by Sunlight, under a current master plan for the resort.Hilton’s property is north of Williams Peak, which is in Sunlight’s boundary and could be developed for skiing under its long-range plan. The Hilton land is bordered on three sides by national forest, U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, and the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area.”We could probably put together … close to 1,700 acres if the party wanted to buy the whole available land,” said Jerry Jones, the real estate agent marketing the Sunlight property.Keller said Hilton, who is retired from engineering, bought his land in the 1970s, and owns a home in the area, too. He said the acreage had been part of a large ranch that also had included the wildlife area, which was acquired by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.Keller said he has been marketing the land as a member of the National Council of Exchangors, which quietly helps move high-end properties. Keller has declined to reveal the asking price for the land.He said Hilton has no interest in developing the land himself. Hilton also is open to suggestions for the land, which Keller said could include selling to someone who might build a single residence and put the property in a conservation easement, which would bar further development.”That is something we definitely have had some conversations about,” he said.He said Hilton also has had discussions in the past with public land agencies about a possible swap that would put the property in public hands.”It’s a beautiful piece of property. There’s a lot of elk running around there too,” he said.But the land is being marketed at a time when the Forest Service is considering selling some lands as a source of revenue. Also, Martha Cochran, executive director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust, which works to protect lands from development through means such as conservation easements, said land swaps are a considerable challenge.”Land swaps are so much more complicated than people think they are,” she said.She said it took four years for the AVLT to trade the Independence ghost town above Aspen to the Forest Service, and that was a case where there was no controversy, no money exchanged hands and it was the Forest Service’s No. 1 land swap priority in the nation.Swaps initiated by public agencies tend to be higher priorities than those in which private landowners make the proposal, she said.Four Mile Park’s forest lands are popular with summer and winter recreationists. Cochran said it was surprising to her when she first learned how much private land also is up there.She said property like Hilton’s generally interests the land trust if it provides wildlife habitat links between public lands. But it’s probably not a property the land trust would be interested in seeking grants to buy. For now anyway, the development threat is fairly low, she said. The land is not likely to be developed unless something happens at Sunlight, and there are major issues to deal with whenever a major development is proposed, she said.”I’m sure it will get there some day but right now I wouldn’t say it’s a huge threat for development,” she said of Hilton’s land.Keller said while the land isn’t yet developed, “when you look down the road at what’s happening in all these areas that’s kind of the direction things go. There’s enough (development) pressure.”He said the land comes with good water rights. One opportunity would simply be to build on 35-acre parcels rather than going through a planned unit development process, he said. One appeal would be that a ski resort is nearby.”Not often could you have one just down the street from you,” he said.
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