In a bid to develop more "hot" beds in Mountain Village, the Telluride Ski and Golf Co. has joined forces with developer John Horn in a proposal that would entail a new road from the Mountain Village Core halfway up the ridge toward the San Sophia Gondola Station. The steep and winding road would be funded by new residential development that it accesses, but is being proposed primarily because it is critical for the support of hotel rooms atop the San Sophia Ridge, according to the development application.
While the ridge top adjacent to the gondola station has long been envisioned for hotel development, developers have been unwilling to build there without year-round road access, according to the application, which will be first reviewed by the Mountain Village Design Review Board on Thursday, March 24. The road and associated residential development is thus necessary, the application states, in order to get the hotel built.
Still more hotel rooms would be built if the application were to be approved on property controlled by the Horn group (St Sophia Partners, LLP) in the Mountain Village Core, adjacent to the gondola station. Additional adjacent property owned by Telski (TSG Ski & Golf, LLP) could be included in a future Core development, Horn suggested in an interview, though that is not part of the current application.
Fostering the development of hotels is a goal embedded in Mountain Village planning documents, according to the application, which notes further that the portion of the project located in the Mountain Village Core would be restricted to uses similar to the development that the town approved last year for Lots 50/51.
That approval for a condominium/hotel, which the developer has said will be operated by Ritz-Carlton or an equivalent hotel operator, was highly controversial, requiring numerous public meetings over the course of more than a year and three public votes before the approval was final. Even still, the approval remains subject to a legal challenge from the developer of the second phase of the adjacent Franz Klammer Lodge.
The complex new application appears to be an effort by Telski to fulfill a strategic goal that the company's principle owner Chuck Horning has stated is crucial to the company's success: to develop the region's bedbase. While there has been robust development of condominiums and second homes in the Telluride region over the past decade, Telluride, like other resorts, has sought the creation of bedbase, or hot beds, that are available season-long to tourists. Because of the region's distance from a metropolitan area, the Telluride Ski Area receives relatively few day skiers and is more dependent than many of its competitors on destination guests.
Both the road and 28 of the new homes would be built on the lower half of the densely forested ridge, on land owned by Telski that is zoned as active open space. Eight additional homes would be added to the master plan for Horn's already approved and under construction ridge-top development. As is required by town regulations, land elsewhere in Mountain Village that is currently slated for development would be rezoned as open space to make up for the loss, keeping the town's overall bank of open space at a prescribed 60 percent. The application does not include the road in its calculation of open space that the new development would occupy because specific sorts of development, including roads, are permitted on active – as opposed to passive – open space in Mountain Village. The application calculates that the proposed development would occupy only 11.249 acres, or precisely the sum of the footprints of proposed structures.
Adjacent property owners are already organizing, and have hired local attorney Doug Tueller, who is working with the Denver law firm of Holme Roberts & Owen, to evaluate the application, and possibly to challenge portions of it.
The application is being driven largely by Telski's interest in seeing more hotel rooms built, Horn said. Indeed, the application includes a commitment by Telski to put $3 million into escrow as a condition of approval, with the money earmarked to assist with hotel development.
While there would be as many as 95 hotel rooms atop Coonskin Ridge, the eventual size of the portion of the hotel that would be built in the Mountain Village Core is unclear. Seventy-two rooms have been planned in the past on the parcel adjacent to the Mountain Village gondola station that Horn's group controls, but Telski owns the next parcel to the north, raising the possibility that many more hotel rooms could be built as part of the development.
Former Telski owner and Mountain Village developer Ron Allred has long envisioned a luxury hotel in two separate developments linked by the gondola, which would serve, he has said, as a kind of elevator. But Allred's vision always assumed that access to the ridge-top portion of the hotel would be primarily via gondola, with supplies brought in by snow-cat in winter.
The new proposal includes a parking lot at the top of the road, midway to the ridge top. The lot would provide parking for the homes that are already approved and under development on the ridge, plus an additional eight homes that are sought in the application. Parking for those homes under current approvals is planned for a parking lot on the Horn group's Core property. The hotel would then be supplied from the parking lot via a system of golf cart trails currently under construction.