Proposed land trade riles Crested Butte

  When developer Tom Chapman made millions on western Colorado land the Forest Service appraised at just $640,000, agency land exchange specialist Paul Zimmerman admitted, "We may well have missed on this one" (HCN, 1/23/95). Now, residents of Crested Butte, Colo., say the agency didn't learn much from the experience.

"It's totally bass ackwards," says Sandy Shea, public-lands coordinator for the environmental group High Country Citizens' Alliance, about a deal that would turn more than 500 acres of national forest land over to Crested Butte Mountain Resort. In return, the resort has agreed to buy private inholdings and patented mining claims and transfer them to the Forest Service. It will also buy a Gunnison County ranch and transfer it to the state of Colorado, which will turn more land over to the Forest Service. The deal would cost the resort $5 million.

But Shea insists the land the resort is after is worth $20 million. The Forest Service appraisal assumed that the resort could divide the land into 12 home sites, yet it is common knowledge, says Shea, that the resort plans to annex the land and develop up to 350 homes. Now his group, along with the town of Crested Butte, the nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and two individuals, has appealed the deal.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort president Edward Callaway insists it is a fair price. "Chapman - that's not who we are. We're much more community-minded," he says. He acknowledges the resort wants to annex the land but says annexation is iffy and expensive.

Speculation that Crested Butte Mountain Resort will annex and develop the land it gets from the Forest Service is not enough to make it more valuable, agrees John Byars, a Forest Service lands and minerals specialist. "We have to appraise the land as it sits today."

Forest Service officials in Washington, D.C., should rule on the appeals by early October.

* Greg Hanscom

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