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Plans Move Forward on Controversial Village at Wolf Creek

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Looks like Jumbo Glacier Resort doesn't have the monopoly on highly contested resort development. In Colorado last month, the controversial Village at Wolf Creek took a major step forward towards reality. Texas billionaire Billy Joe "Red" McCombs has tried to develop the Village, located in southwestern Colorado, since the 1980s. But as goes any story of development in mountain communities, environmental groups and local residents pushed back. Now, a key decision by the Forest Service on November 20 makes the possibility of a 10,000 person village at this tiny ski resort much more probable.

Mr. McCombs, 87, has spent 28 years planning a massive town near Wolf Creek Ski Area, not far from Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At full build out, the Village at Wolf Creek will have up to 1,711 units comprised of hotels, condos, town homes, and single family houses. Access to the ski resort would be from the Alberta chairlift or a new chairlift called the Meadow lift.

In their November 20 decision, the Forest Service approved a 2010 land swap proposal that traded 204.4 federal acres on southern Colorado's Wolf Creek pass for 177.6 acres of private land on the Continental Divide. The approval process took a whopping four years, but with the decision McCombs now has access to his Forest Service in-holding, as is required by federal law. In defending the decision, Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas said that the land exchange gave the Forest Service an opportunity to acquire important resources and that the Village at Wolf Creek would spark economic development in rural Colorado.

A combination of environmental and land advocacy groups have opposed McCombs' ambitious project at every turn. Initially, the lack of road access stalled the project. Then, the Durango Herald reports that in the 2000s, McCombs had a falling out with the Pitcher family, the owners of Wolf Creek. Approval for the village almost happened in 2006 before a series of lawsuits by environmental groups stopped the plans. Critics say the project is too large and that the new village would negatively impact wildlife and surrounding wetlands.

After making their decision, the Forest Service will field public comments for at least 45 days. And while opponents are gearing up to attack the Village at Wolf Creek from all sides, McCombs is one step closer to construction.

· Feds OK land swap to access proposed 1,711 unit Village at Wolf Creek [Denver Post]
· Controversial Wolf Creek Resort Land Swap Approved [Outside]
· The Village at Wolf Creek [Official Site]
· Proposed $1 Billion Jumbo Glacier Resort Still May Not Happen [Curbed Ski]
· Go Here Now: The Top Reasons to Ski (Powder!) at Wolf Creek [Curbed Ski]
· Find Never-ending Powder On This Colorado Road Trip [Curbed Ski]