Kirkwood development not making friends |

Kirkwood development not making friends

Kirkwood Mountain Resort is expanding and some people just don’t like it.

The Friends of Kirkwood homeowners group has been opposed to extensive development of the remote ski resort, since the resort embarked on an expansion in 1997.

Kirkwood is in the midst of gaining approval from Alpine County for a plan to double its occupancy over the next 10 to 20 years.

Environmental analysis has already been completed and now the resort is responding to some of the comments made by stakeholders, including the Friends of Kirkwood.

Friends co-founder Reid Bennett claims the planned development exceeds what’s allowed by the resort’s 1988 master plan and said the environmental documentation is insufficient.

Bennett, who’s owned property at Kirkwood for 18 years, said the group is opposed to any changes to Kirkwood’s pristine meadow and to development north of Highway 88.

“We feel there will be a real loss of skiing and scenic beauty across the street,” he said. “We’re really interested in having whatever is developed be substantial and something that would foster a true community here. Not the hodgepodge that’s starting to get here now.”

Kirkwood CEO Gary Derck said he understands the apprehension longtime Kirkwood homeowners feel.

Derck said he’s not trying to change the small town atmosphere of Kirkwood, which is home to about 540 residents.

However, with more Bay area people finding Kirkwood a desirable location for a second home, Derck said expansion is necessary to avoid bankruptcy that has threatened the resort a few times since it opened its first lifts in 1972.

“In order for it to be a viable economic business there needs to be a critical mass and that’s all we’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s just a quaint little place, and we’re trying to provide better service.”

Derck said resort development will not exceed the 6,558 people the master plan allows at one time. But mixed-use housing, containing commercial, residential and employee units will be built along with single family residences. This housing could sell or rent from affordable rates as classified by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development standards to upwards of $1 million.

Derck estimates these projects could cost around $250 million over the next decade.

More than 100 mitigation measures from erosion control to traffic monitoring are part of the environmental report Alpine County commissioned in 1998. Derck anticipates a revised draft with responses to comments on the environmental documentation will be finished by early September.

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