Week in Review | PostIndependent.com

Week in Review

Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday night unanimously approved a revised Spring Valley Ranch project that includes 577 housing units and two golf courses.The nearly 6,000-acre project would be one of the largest developments in Garfield County history, and would be built a few miles southeast of Glenwood Springs. It goes next for a final decision by county commissioners.Spring Valley Ranch once was proposed to have more than 2,000 residences. A planned unit development approval dates back to 2000, but the project has undergone several revisions since then. Spring Valley Holdings bought the property for $25 million in 2005.County planning staff initially had recommended denial of the project, but later recommended approval after further revisions that included reinserting 75 income-restricted housing units and adding 24 employee housing rental units.A representative for the Spring Valley Ranch proposal Wednesday night sought to put to rest concerns that developers might sell the development if they obtain approval for it.”We really intend to go forward with a project at Spring Valley Ranch. We’re in the development business,” Tom Gray told the Garfield County Planning Commission Wednesday night.

An Eagle County commissioner has confirmed reports that he’s mulling a run for the state Senate district that includes Garfield County, while a Republican lawmaker has formally declared his candidacy.Democrat Arn Menconi says he plans to decide by January whether to run for the seat now occupied by Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs. Taylor will be forced out at the end of next year by term limits.Meanwhile, state Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, who has long expressed interest in running for the Senate, announced this week that he is definitely running.”There is much work to be done, and I feel that my service is not an option, but an obligation to the citizens of the district,” he said in a news release.Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt, a Democrat, had considered entering the race but ruled it out, saying the timing isn’t right because of her current work as commissioner and as a newly appointed member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The requested 2008 budget for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office includes salary increases for all staff.And without a special funding request that was made this year, the budget will even be lower than in 2007.The funding was for an electronic case management system the DA’s office plans to move to by December or January. With the new system, prosecutors could go to court with only two things: their statute books and their laptops. Thousands of pages of discovery or evidence could be sent out electronically rather than with all the associated paper and copying, according to District Attorney Martin Beeson. The office plans to keep hard copies for another six to 12 months to ensure nothing is lost in the switch.The DA’s office received $168,000 for this year in county funding toward the electronic system. Not requesting funding for it in 2008 allows the DA’s office to decrease its overall budget while boosting pay and increasing some other expenses, Beeson said.Prosecutors still can go to the Front Range and find higher pay with a lower cost of living and all the amenities of a larger city. There is still a bit of a gap in salaries.

GRAND JUNCTION – America’s thirst for oil is threatening to add to the thirst for water in the West.Meeting the nation’s energy needs also is threatening water quality in the region, speakers said Friday at a seminar in Grand Junction on energy development’s impacts on water. The seminar was organized by the Colorado River District, based in Glenwood Springs.It focused on possible oil shale development, which is considered to be an elephant in the room when it comes to planning for Colorado’s future needs.High oil prices and a diminishing global supply have renewed interest in the oil shale industry, which went bust in the early 1980s. If the industry took off, full production could reach 2.5 million barrels per day. Each barrel could require 1 to 3 barrels of water to produce.If full production occurred, that would require additional withdrawals of water from the Colorado and other rivers in western Colorado, said Cathy Wilson, who has studied the oil shale industry’s water needs for Los Alamos National Laboratory.Her study found that the White River in northwest Colorado might be able to support production of 500,000 barrels of oil per day, but only with creation of 16,000 acre feet of new water storage to provide backup during dry years.

Garfield County’s red-hot housing market keeps heating up despite the nation’s downward spiral of housing trends.”Our sales are definitely up compared to last year,” said Tonya Nieslanik, co-owner and broker at Vicki Lee Green Realtors in Glenwood Springs. “And even last year we had a great market.”Last year Garfield County topped $1 billion in property sales, and Nieslanik doesn’t see any signs of cooling any time soon.”Since 2002 and 2003, when the market was slow, it’s gone up and up and up,” she said. “We are still in our own little bubble. Real estate is hot here and people are still wanting to move here. I know that we’re off to a great year.”Garfield County witnessed a record-setting July in terms of total property transactions and single-month total-dollar volume, according to a report from Land Title Guarantee Co. in Glenwood Springs.Land Title reported that Garfield County had 312 total property transactions, an 11 percent increase over July of 2006, just six short of the single-month record of 318 set in August of last year. July’s transactions accounted for more than $157 million in total-dollar volume, a 57 percent increase over July 2006. That is the highest single-month total-dollar volume the county has ever seen, according to Land Title marketing director Liz Lippitt.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, this week is unveiling a wilderness proposal that would ban drilling on much of the Roan Plateau.The measure is the latest political maneuver aimed at staving off attempts to open up the area to natural gas leasing. However, the Roan proposal is not new for DeGette, who has included it in her Colorado wilderness bills going back to 1999, said Chris Arend, a DeGette spokesman.The BLM previously had found wilderness-quality lands on top of the Roan, Arend said.”It hasn’t been leased yet, so as far as we know those lands still have wilderness quality and should be considered for wilderness,” Arend said.The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has decided to open up the plateau for drilling. Conservationists have sought to protect the top from drilling rigs.


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