Granby Ranch is a decently sized ski community inside of Granby, Colorado, with around seven hundred homes and a ski resort with 406 skiable acres. Located relatively close to Winter Park, guests have enjoyed Granby Ranch Resort for having a family-friendly atmosphere with mellow slopes and a lack of crowds. Due to its rising popularity, developers are chomping at the bit to develop thousands of more homes in the community. Some locals aren’t pleased with this, but there’s one problem: the local government’s metro districts are run by these developers.
Sky-Hi News reports that Colorado’s Secretary of State’s Election Division is investigating the developers over potential election law violations. These developers are being accused by the homeowner’s association of acting as an unregistered political committee in upcoming elections.
In spite of this, three of the metro districts announced on March 30 that they were canceling their elections, which were set to take place on May 2nd. The reasoning for this was that there were not enough candidates running to fill the open seats, which is a legal move.
To fully grasp the situation, let’s start by discussing metro districts. According to the Colorado Association of Home Builders, a metro district is an independent governmental entity “formed to finance, design, acquire, install, construct, operate and/or maintain public improvements that are not otherwise being provided.” They also create tax districts to finance new projects or improve existing infrastructure.
Granby Ranch is served by nine of these metro districts. Eight of the nine districts are controlled by developers that want to continue to grow the town. Seven of these districts are land with no homes. Resort officials are also involved in these districts, as Matthew Hoover, who is the director of mountain operations at the resort, and Roxanne Hoover, who is the general manager, are Directors in the Headwaters District, which is run by the developers.
The only district that is controlled by homeowners is the Granby Ranch Metropolitan District. One of the people that is trying to run is Natascha O’Flaherty, who is a former Granby town trustee and attorney. She resigned in 2021 after clashing with developers in the metro districts. At an April virtual meeting with district candidates, she was being monitored by attorneys from the developers. Here’s what she had to say at the meeting:
“I’m running to serve on the district to ensure that the residents of Granby ranch in our district have fairness, transparency and fiscal responsibility. Think it’s really telling tonight, the length the interest the developer has in maintaining and getting control of a district …They’re seeking to authorize billions of debt, long before a homeowner ever buys in the district.”
Granby Ranch Resort’s ownership and management have recently fluctuated. In 2020, years of mismanagement and debt led to foreclosure. In 2021, it was purchased by GR Terra and its affiliate, GRCO. They brought in Andy Wirth to become the General Manager of the ski resort.
The new ownership group invested millions before the 2021-22 season on new snowmaking equipment, and a renovated base lodge, among other improvements. They also spent $6 million in 2022 to repair the infrastructure and roads. The new ownership group also announced Granby Ranch Rising, which included plans for terrain expansion and a Bode Miller ski racing academy. Surprisingly, Wirth left the ski resort in 2022 due to unknown reasons.
One of the casualties from the past couple of years was Bode Miller’s planned racing academy. Last October, they announced that they were canceling the plans for the ski academy Granby Ranch. According to Jason Blevins over at the Colorado Sun, Andy Wirth cited the complicated metro districts as one of the reasons. Bode Miller & Andy Wirth remain interested in finding another home for their ski academy but have yet to announce the new location.
The homeowners are also suing the ski resort over the amenities in the town not being publically owned. This lawsuit started back in 2020, as it was previously agreed upon that the Headwaters District would eventually make the amenities publically owned. When the ski resort foreclosed, the new owners said this agreement was void.
A ruling in 2022 by the Grand County District Court said that the homeowners are correct in the pursuit to take the amenities public. A trial to determine whether the homeowners can still pursue the transfer of ownership for these public amenities is starting today. The Headwaters District is also suing the homeowners over the public amenities.
A set of ballot measures will also be happening this week. The Colorado Sun reports that Districts 3-7, which have no residents that live in them, will each individually be voting on reauthorizing up to $2.11 billion in taxes and bonds to fund infrastructure upgrades, with repayment of over $10 billion (i.e. debt) in each district. The catch is that the five voters in each of these districts are developers, so you can probably guess what the outcome will be. It should be noted that in situations like this, the developers rarely reach the amount of money that they authorize, as it’s similar to the concept of credit card limits.
These elections are set for May 2nd. It’ll be interesting to see if massive development does come for this Colorado community.
Image Credits: Granby Ranch Resort