Village at Wolf Creek proposed land exchange hits roadblock

The Daily Times staff
Wildflowers are pictured on the federal parcel of land off U.S. Highway 160 over Wolf Creek Pass between South Fork and Pagosa Springs, Colo., at the site of a proposed development.

FARMINGTON — The proposed Village at Wolf Creek has been on hold for decades as the developer and opponents spar over a land transfer that would have allowed the development to be built near Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Over the past 30 years, conservationists and the would-be developer have fought about the proposed development. Opponents of the Village at Wolf Creek state that the development would negatively impact a critical wildlife corridor that is important for the Canada lynx.  

The developer hit another roadblock on Tuesday when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected its appeal of a court ruling that the land transfer approved in 2015 had been based on an environmental analysis that violated federal law. The appeals court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

The development was intended to create a unique outdoors and wilderness experience that would complement the Wolf Creek Ski Area and bring jobs to the region, according to the Village at Wolf Creek website. The website describes it as a “high quality boutique base village.”

The website states the litigation is about access to land rather than whether the Village at Wolf Creek will be built. Without the land transfer, it will be more expensive for the developer, Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, to build the village.

Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture owns 300 acres in the Wolf Creek area that is completely surrounded by U.S. Forest Service land.

After a land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service was blocked by courts, which found the environmental analysis had violated federal laws, the developer applied for an access road to property it owns.

The Forest Service had argued that the land transfer was needed to give the private property owners access to their property. The law requires private property owners be given access to their land.

The debate dates back to 1987 when the developer traded 1,631 acres of land in a different part of Colorado for 420 acres near Wolf Creek Ski Area. The final appraisals reduced that 420 acres to 300. The small parcel no longer had direct access to U.S. Highway 160. While a dirt road provided access to those acres, the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that it doesn’t meet the requirements for access to private land because it is a seasonal road.

Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture stated in a press release earlier this year that the public has enjoyed access to the land once owned by the developer, however it has been denied the use of its land near Wolf Creek Ski Area.

In July, the Forest Service issued a draft record of decision that, if approved, would give Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture the ability to construct a road to access the private land. A final decision is expected in early 2019.