Developer drops plans for Sunlight Mountain

Owners will still seek county approval for village project

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A Florida-based development group has backed out of buying Sunlight Mountain Resort, but the ski area’s owners say they plan to continue pursuing approval of a base village project.

Sunlight Mountain Development LLC, terminated its purchase contract in mid-December, said ski area General Manager Tom Jankovsky. He said the would-be buyers indicated they didn’t think they could win development approvals from Garfield County under acceptable terms and conditions. The sale had been contingent on receiving such approvals.

The county’s planning commission had unanimously recommended denial of a proposal for 830 housing units and 110,000 square feet of commercial space at the resort. Some commission members were uncomfortable with the development’s size.

The project was scheduled for consideration by county commissioners Jan. 19, but commissioners on Monday agreed to Sunlight’s request to postpone that hearing until May.

Jankovsky said the resort doesn’t plan to change the proposal. He thinks its chances for approval will be improved with the existing owners proposing it.

“I just think we’re more in tune with the community and the needs of the community,” he said.

The resort is owned by Sunlight Inc., a Colorado corporation that has about three dozen shareholders, about a third of them local.

Representatives of the Sunlight Mountain Development ownership group couldn’t be reached for
comment Monday. Jankovsky said they gave no indication whether financial problems had any bearing on their decision to back out of the deal.

The same group was involved with Exquisite Development, which had no prior experience with ski resort projects but extensive development experience in Florida and elsewhere in the Southeast.

Florida has been hard-hit by the real estate downturn. Telephone numbers for Exquisite Development have been disconnected.

Sunlight officials say a base village project is needed as a way of coming up with the money to pay for things such as new lifts and snowmaking. The mountain’s infrastructure must be updated to ensure the resort’s long-term viability, they say.

“We’ll be fine in the short term, but we can’t continue in the long term without it,” said Sunlight president and chairman Richard Schafstall.

The resort has lost nearly $1 million over the past 11 years.

Schafstall said the owners are older and don’t have development expertise. The hope has been to sell to “a younger set of folks” who can complete the project, he said.

“If that option presents itself again with another buyer, I wouldn’t be surprised if that still would be the best option,” Schafstall said.

County building and planning director Fred Jarman said he thinks it’s important that Sunlight take into account the feedback it got from the planning commission and public.

“I think if they hear all of that and respond to it adequately, they might be able to see some success up there,” he said.

However, Jarman is among those who have criticized the proposal’s size. He says it’s out of scale with its rural setting outside Glenwood Springs, and says it would fail to adequately mitigate the road impacts it would create.


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