Feds analyzing land swap near Wolf Creek ski village
MONTE VISTA — Federal officials are analyzing a proposed land swap that could allow Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs to build a ski village in southwestern Colorado that has been stalled for years by lawsuits and opposition from area residents.
The U.S. Forest Service said Tuesday that it will prepare an environmental review of the proposed exchange of 204 acres of public land for 178 acres owned by McCombs, a founder of media giant Clear Channel Communications. The land in the Rio Grande National Forest has access to the road serving the Wolf Creek ski area and the private property surrounded by forest land doesn’t.
The Forest Service will take public comments before deciding whether to approve the land exchange with the developer, Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, said Dan Dallas, forest supervisor.
“I feel there is significant public interest and enough potential benefits to this proposed land exchange over the previous right-of-way application to merit a full environmental analysis,” Dallas said in a statement.
The agency would also have to assess the potential environmental impacts of the development near the base of the ski area about 250 miles southwest of Denver. The Forest Service previously issued an environmental review favoring plans for a larger version of the ski village, but agreed to redo the analysis to settle lawsuits by environmental groups and the ski-area operators.
The original proposal called for about 10,000 units in the Village at Wolf Creek. The new proposal calls for about 1,700 units.
The developers have said the new location would keep most of the construction away from wetlands and ski runs and place it next to the highway, so no access road would have to be built across federal land.