Black Bear Mountain Ski Resort
Location: Bloomington, ID near Bear Lake Utah/Idaho just south of Paris, Idaho.
To Employ: 1500 Construction Workers & Over 300 Staff Members.
Four-Season Resort, encompassing ski lifts, golf courses, a water park, a zip line, a mountain coaster, ATV and horseback riding trails, condominiums, townhouses and hotel lodges. In time, the developers plan to include Bear Lake, where they hope to build a 600-slip marina, residential units and another golf course.
Latest News on the Black Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Bloomington, Idaho- 83223
2/10/2008 - by Kate Carpenter, Publication: Idaho State Journal
Planned Bear lake County four-season resort forces residents to face consequences of growth
On a plateau in the hills just south of Bloomington, the snow is pristine. A few ranches line a narrow road, and snow drifts are broken only by rock outcroppings and brush. Turn around, and the view is spectacular — the hill looks out on the Bear Lake Wildlife Refuge, and to the far south is the edge of Bear Lake, which is frozen over. It’s nearly silent up here, except for the blowing wind. Even the occasional traffic from the highway below can’t be heard. On the way up to this plateau, however, tractors and snowplows disrupt the otherwise natural landscape. The machines, though idle, are the first sign of the change that appears to be coming to this area.
“Right over there is where the 10th hole will go,” says Bill Poce, pointing to a dip in the land between two clumps of aspen trees. Then he looks around. “The finishing holes will be really spectacular against the mountains.”
Poce is the vice president of marketing and sales for Black Bear Mountain Resort. The resort, proposed by Utah developers Brad Auger, Bruce Barrett and Ted Galovan, would be a four-season complex, encompassing ski lifts, golf courses, a water park, a zip line, a mountain coaster, ATV and horseback riding trails, condominiums, townhouses and hotel lodges. In time, the developers plan to include Bear Lake, where they hope to build a 600-slip marina, residential units and another golf course.
With that combination of mountain and lake property, the developers are touting the resort as the first of its kind in North America.
“A lot of resorts come close to that, with proximity to a lake or access to skiing,” Poce says. “But we combine it into ownership property on the lake front as well as on the mountain.”
Though the resort is ultimately a 20- to 30-year project, Poce says, they hope to have the first golf course finished by the end of the summer and playable by 2009. They also plan to begin selling property and building the core of their “mountain village” by August.
Poce says the developers started purchasing property in the area for a hunting reserve four or five years ago, and the project ballooned from there. Now, they hope to attract residents and visitors from Southeast Idaho, Utah and Southern California.
Black Bear Resort is certainly not the first development in Bear Lake. Others have included Bear Lake West and The Reserve, housing and recreation developments on the lake. But this resort is the biggest plan that has come to this rural county with a population of slightly more than 6,000, and residents are wrestling with the potential consequences of such a large project.
In the wood-paneled council chambers at Montpelier City Hall, a group of about 20 is gathered, nearly filling the room. They’re here on this afternoon in January to discuss the need for affordable housing in Bear Lake County, especially in light of the Black Bear Resort development. The group includes contractors, mayors, school officials and real estate agents. Richard Stallings, a former congressman, former Pocatello City Council member and former head of the Idaho Democratic Party, introduces Heidi Aggeler from BBC Research and Consulting, the firm that will conduct an affordable housing study in Bear Lake County. Officials hope to use the results of that study to effectively plan for housing needs in the area and apply for grant money.
Those anticipated housing needs include an influx of workers whom officials expect to come as a result of the resort. They’re anticipating 1,500 construction workers and more than 300 staffers once Black Bear is up and running. Affordable housing is already in short supply in the area, and property values that rise because of the resort could make it more difficult to come by.
But Montpelier Mayor Reed Peterson sees that as a good problem. In a county with a slumping economy and a dwindling population, a giant resort could be just the boost the local economy needs.
“If this thing all folds out the way it’s planned, the economic impact on Bear Lake County and the state of Idaho is huge,” Peterson says.
Peterson nearly bounces as he talks about Black Bear he’s so excited by the prospect of the resort. He describes his five children, none of whom live in the area, and says this development could lure people back. He calls it “the most environmentally friendly, green development” he’s seen, as he describes the developers’ plan for geothermal heating and cooling, and proposed use of wildlife corridors to minimize interference with nature. He sings the praises of the developers, who have pledged 10 percent of their sales to affordable housing and who donated the Fisher Inn swimming pool to the county after they bought the building, where they plan to house workers.
“They’re really contributing to the community,” Peterson says. “They’re aware of the impact they’re going to have.”
But there’s another mayor at this meeting who’s not quite as thrilled.
Without hesitation, Paris Mayor Dave Matthews says he sees more bad than good from the proposed resort. Foremost among his concerns is water. Water rights in Bear Lake County are heavily regulated, and the Black Bear property doesn’t have any.
The land is in the Bear River Ground Water Management Area, where water rights are limited and attached to existing property lines. The developers plan on buying water rights elsewhere to transfer to the resort property, but their first water mitigation proposal was returned to them by the Idaho Department of Water Resources, in part because it involved a transfer that was too complicated.
Once a new proposal is submitted to IDWR, it could take up to a year to process, depending on “how much head-scratching is involved,” says Dave Carlson, a senior water resource agent for the Idaho Falls department of IDWR. If anyone files a protest — and groups ranging from the city of Paris to Rocky Mountain Power could — the process would include informal and formal hearings, and could take even longer. That time frame could put a damper on the resort’s plans to start selling land in August.
Even if they succeed in transferring water rights, Matthews worries the wells the developers’ plan to drill on their property would tap into the local water supply and divert water from Bloomington and Paris. He says a hydrologist hired by the city of Bloomington confirmed that worry.
“That’s a big concern, the water situation,” Matthews said.
And though water is important, there’s also something deeper at stake for the residents closest to the proposed resort.
Many families in Paris and Bloomington, agricultural towns only four miles apart, have been here for generations.
John Finley, 83, has lived in Bear Lake County his entire life. He and his family chose not to sell their property to the developers because they prefer to keep it as agricultural land, but Finley is quick to point out he feels no animosity toward the developers.
“I have mixed emotions,” he says. “I just hate so much to see the old way of life go.”
The prospect of rising property tax values has some residents spooked, and the thought of vacationers clogging highways and buying up local property worries opponents.
“You’re used to the quiet lifestyle,” says Matthews, who says it’s already hard to get on Highway 89 during the summer, thanks to lakegoers. “If you get those big developments in there, your quiet lifestyle is gone.”
Max Bunderson has lived in Paris for 58 years. He fears that, if the resort becomes a reality, an influx of people will change everything residents love about the area.
“Everybody in the valley talks about economic development and they want more jobs,” he says. “Do what I did: I traveled out of the county and had a job because I appreciated the little community we had here. These young people want it handed to them on a platter; they don’t want to get in their car and drive. I drove 85 miles one way for 30 years so I could have this way of life.”
The idea of change is enough of a concern on its own, but residents of these two towns say their worries are also elevated by the fact that they don’t quite trust these new developers.
With any project, especially in a county this size, there are bound to be rumors. Opponents of the resort trade stories about land offers made at funerals, property sold without deeds and intentionally misleading brochures.
These stories are what Brad Auger likes least about working on this project in Bear Lake County.
“Rumors drive me nuts,” he says. “That’s the hardest part of this.”
The developers have heard their share of rumors, too — Tiger Woods is supposedly an investor, though that’s news to them. Their strategy, Poce says, is to ignore them.
“We do the best we can,” he says. “We work within the rules and regulations and go about our business.”
But there may be a nugget of truth behind some of these tales. Opponents have pointed out what they feel are ethical problems with the way development has proceeded.
One of those claims revolves around a brochure the Bear Lake team distributed early in the process. The brochure used images of land the developers didn’t own — land that wasn’t even located in the county, in some cases — to promote the
new resort. In a community where honesty is an important value, that kind of advertising irked some people.
A bigger issue, though, is the county’s decision to rezone 2,207 acres of Black Bear Resort land from agricultural to commercial, despite the fact the developers didn’t yet have water rights or all the deeds to the property. County commissioners approved the rezoning on the condition that water rights be obtained, but some residents feel the county has been a little too accommodating.
“They put pressure on the county commissioners because they knew the county was looking for some economic push,” says Bunderson. “They just started putting the pinch on them, and the commissioners have bowed down and done things they never ever should have done.”
It’s a strong claim. And it’s backed up, some opponents say, by the fact that the Black Bear Resort developers put up $10,000 to help Bear Lake County create the large-scale planned urban development ordinance that would allow for a project like the resort to be considered by the county. Before the PUD ordinance was created, the county didn’t have regulations in place for such a large development.
While opponents allege a conflict of interest, it’s a complicated issue. For a county as small as Bear Lake, it can be nearly impossible to find the funding for new ordinances without the help of developers.
“They don’t have the tax base, but they have the pressure that comes from the big developers,” says Zach Parris, a deputy attorney with Bannock County. He adds that, as long as the county goes through the proper
public hearing process, it’s not necessarily inappropriate for the developers to help fund the ordinance.
Bear Lake County commissioners Montain Kunz and Vaughn Rasmussen didn’t return multiple phone calls.
Finally, some of the most vocal opponents question the developers’ ability to purchase land and fund the project through the long haul.
Those concerns are evidenced by property near Bear Lake on which the Black Bear developers made down payments but never followed up with offers.
Scott Johnson owns 100 acres from Highway 89 to the shore of Bear Lake. Last year, the Black Bear developers made a nonrefundable $150,000 down payment on his land and a promise to follow up by the first of the year. They didn’t, and Johnson wants to make it clear his land is for sale to anyone who is interested.
“They kept saying, ‘We’re going to get some money,’” Johnson says. “I’m kind of disappointed in them. I expected them to follow up better.”
Johnson’s land sits right where the Black Bear developers originally planned to build the lakeside element of the resort. Without it, or other lake shore property, they would need to change their plans.
“If they want to make this project work, well, there’s only so much lakeshore property left,” Johnson says.
Rick Thomas, whose family owns mountain property the developers would like to buy, is concerned stories like that indicate a lack of funding on the part of developers that could leave property owners high and dry after making real estate deals.
“I just got a gut feeling that
someone’s gonna get burned somewhere, and it’s not gonna be them,” he says.
Many opponents remember the financial troubles of Bear Lake West and Tamarack Resort in Valley County. Developers of both projects went bankrupt early before new investors came in to rescue the developments.
Black Bear Resort would prefer to keep its funding private, Poce says, although he adds they have a small founders’ program promising lenders first pick of the property. The developers also plan not to spend more than they have, he says.
“As soon as we start being able to sell land,” he says, “we’ll become cash positive in a hurry.”
Part of the emotional conflict over the project comes down to the difference between residents of two parts of the county and how they see the development.
Montpelier, the site of Bear Lake High School, is focused primarily on the economy. The job situation is desperate in the area — in a recent study, a large majority of citizens named new jobs as a top priority — and a big development like this could be a godsend.
Bear Lake County School District has lost more than 700 students in the past 10 years, says Superintendent Cliff Walters, and the development could mean working families would bring new students to the area. The more students in the district, the more state funding it receives.
But some in Paris and Bloomington argue county residents to the north are so eager for development they’re willing to rush it through without heeding the downsides. The potential change to this sleepy county will be felt most by the small towns adjacent to the resort, and opponents there reiterate, “I wish this were in Montpelier’s backyard. Then they’d see it differently.”
The one thing both sides can agree on is there will be change if the resort is developed — but it’s difficult to predict what that change will be.
About seven hours northwest of the proposed Black Bear Resort is another recreational development, the Tamarack Resort in Idaho’s Valley County. The parallels between it and the Bear Lake County resort are striking.
Proponents of Black Bear point to the more than $500 million in property that Tamarack has sold as proof of the potential economic impact.
But opponents argue Donnelly and surrounding areas are struggling because of skyrocketing land values.
There’s some truth to both sides. Terrell Donicht, superintendent of the McCall-Donnelly School District, says Tamarack’s arrival has brought significant change to the schools. The resort agreed to pay an impact fee of $6,500 for each new student whose parents it employs to help the school accommodate growth, and the number of students has increased. That growth has its downsides, too, Donicht says, including limited classroom space and difficulty providing adequate salaries for teachers in what is now a high-priced area.
He also says the price of property has “blown up” in the area, which causes a problem for lower-income families.
“It’s tough to live here unless both parents are working at least one or two jobs,” he says. “You’ve got to have a fairly decent salary.”
Karen Campbell, the Valley County assessor, says property values have skyrocketed in the area, but levies have gone down because of tax limits. She says she owns a lot next to her home that was valued at $7,000 in 1983 and now is worth almost $100,000. The taxes on it are only $350 a year, which she thinks makes for a pretty good investment. On the other hand, the roads are busier and her county now has more people.
“Who’s to say if that’s good or bad?” Campbell says. “I think the county does a fantastic job in trying to be proactive and stay on top of it. Now that it’s going, you can’t fight it. You’ve just got to try to make the best of it.”
With Tamarack already in full swing — and planning further development — some question whether the market is already saturated with resorts.
“I wonder how many of those Idaho can afford?” Donicht says.
And with slopes at Black Bear Resort that even Bill Poce acknowledges aren’t entirely impressive to Westerners, there may be some doubt there’s much to draw potential property owners to Black Bear. But the developers believe they have a target market in baby boomers looking to pass on legacy properties and Gen X-ers who are activity-oriented and looking for second homes that are upscale but more affordable than Jackson Hole, Wyo. Part of the marketing plan for Black Bear, Poce says, is to introduce people to the Bear Lake area, which he feels hasn’t been fully discovered as a recreation destination, though regional visitors already boat and fish there.
“It’s kind of an unknown quantity,” Poce says.
As parallels are drawn between Black Bear Resort and other properties, arguments made for one side or the other and marketing plans put in place, an important population seems to get lost in the shuffle.
Bill Poce and Brad Auger sit at the picnic table inside an old homesteader’s cabin they have refurbished. Eventually they expect this cabin to be at the end of a ski run, serving as a small lodge or bar, but for now it’s a place they can bring prospective clients as they tour the property. The two men are discussing the question of how the resort will affect wildlife. They argue mule deer in the area won’t really be displaced, despite accusations to the contrary. Auger disputes concerns about wildlife voiced by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He says Fish and Game must say there will be an impact on wildlife because that’s the organization’s job, but he doesn’t think there’s much to back it up.
“There’s nothing that we’re doing here that’s going to impact anything in a negative way,” he says.
But the Idaho Department of Fish and Game says that’s not true.
The pristine hills above Bloomington — right where the resort is planned — are part of a mule deer wintering range that stretches from the Utah line up
Copenhagen at the north end of the county. Mule deer migrate through the area in the winter to find food and to conserve energy in a quiet habitat. Although the number of deer varies depending on the severity of the winter, in recent years Fish and Game surveys have found fewer deer coming through the area, says Fish and Game biologist Corey Class.
The Black Bear Resort will not decimate the deer herd, Class adds, but all the developments in the area are combining to decrease the wildlife numbers. The ence , introduction of activities such as ATV-riding to the area will all take a toll.
“This is going to be another huge obstacle for that already troubled deer herd,” Class says.
Perhaps more alarming, the land is near several sage grouse leks, including one on the resort property, Class says. Leks are the birds’ mating areas, an important resource for a species that is near-threatened. Like the mule deer, sage grouse are finding less space and food due to development, and their numbers are also dwindling, Class says.
Despite assurances by the developers that the resort will include wildlife corridors and have a minimal impact on the environment, Fish and Game experts say it’s a promise the developers are in no position to keep.
“You can make it somewhat wildlife friendly,” Class says, noting that leaving some sagebrush is preferable to paving from corner to corner. “No matter what they do to make that development ‘greener,’ you’re still going to have the associated biological cost.”
Class worries that, with the strong feelings on both sides of the development, wildlife isn’t enough of a concern. It’s not the place of Fish and Game to be for or against development, he adds, but officials want to be sure the county is informed.
“We’re not saying the development’s good or bad, but this is going to have a cost,” he says. “It’s not by any means going to destroy that deer herd by itself, but you will have fewer deer and
sage grouse because of this. If that cost is somehow OK with everybody, then that’s how it is.”
One of the questions Class gets is how many mule deer will be lost as a result of development, and it’s a question he can’t answer. What’s known for sure is that wildlife will be adversely affected, Class says. What’s difficult to know is how far-reaching that effect will be.
Uncertainty is a common refrain in this struggle over development. Despite all the consulting firms hired, analysts brought in to study the area, financial projections offered by the company and worries from the community, it’s difficult to know exactly what the impacts might be from a resort the size of Black Bear.
What will the economic impact entail? Property values could skyrocket, but they could be curtailed by good planning. Jobs could increase and bring new people to the area, but they could be service-level, minimum-wage positions. Some people could leave because of rising property taxes and a change in lifestyle, but others might come and take their places.
How much will local wildlife be affected? Populations could die off, but they could relocate. “Green” development could be used to mitigate the impact, but it could be ineffective. The impact could be minimal, but it could also be monumental.
What will the change in lifestyle mean for Bear Lake County? Growth could be wellmanaged, but it could also explode and result in a busy resort city.
Arguments can be made on all sides of these questions, and still the answers are impossible to know. The real question facing residents of Bear Lake County is much bigger. Is it worth letting development come in order to discover the results — and by then, will it be too late to do anything about them?
Bill Poce’s SUV, a black Escalade with the Black Bear logo on the back windshield and a license plate that reads “Bear1,” is parked in front of the Bear Lake County Courthouse, in the same lot as a handful of mud-splattered, older model pickup trucks. As the SUV creeps up the narrow road to the plateau Black Bear Resort could occupy, it churns the clean snow under its tires. It could be a metaphor for the area’s debate over progress versus tradition, growth versus space, money versus nature. It’s quiet up on that plateau now, but that may be about to change.
JOE KLINE/ IDAHO STATE JOURNAL Bill Poce, vice president of marketing and sales for the proposed Black Bear Mountain Resort, holds a map of the development plan for the resort site just outside Bloomington during a recent tour of the area.
The proposed 10th hole of the first golf course at the resort resides at the dip in the land with a mountain background. Some rough work has already been completed on the course.
Landowner Scott Johnson has 100 acres of land from Highway 89 to Bear Lake that the resort developers made a down payment on, but haven’t followed up since. The land would be vital to their plans for development along Bear Lake.
Brad Auger is one of the three developers of the proposed Black Bear Resort.
1/31/2008- By John Miller (Associated Press)
Salt Lake City developers have quietly acquired thousands of acres in southeastern Idaho in hopes of becoming another destination for the hordes of baby boomers leading the charge West for skiing, golf and water sports.
Developers hope to lure boomers to resort on Bear Lake
Bruce Barrett and Brad Auger are promoting their Black Bear Resort, with plans for a European-style mountain village and a 600-slip marina near where the 18-mile-long Bear Lake straddles the Idaho-Utah border.
Even as investors now tour the snow-covered Idaho site, some longtime Bear Lake County locals fear the project, including a proposed U.S. Forest Service land swap to expand skiing, will mean traffic, a wildlife exodus and higher taxes.
This is just the latest among Rocky Mountain resort settlements stretching from Colorado to Montana aiming to capitalize on a post-World War II generation whose investment portfolios are flush with a collective $7.6 trillion, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Edging toward retirement, they now want to buy mountain and lake property close enough so the kids can fly in for the weekend.
Bear Lake is 120 miles from Salt Lake City. Logan, Utah, a town of 50,000, is an hour away.
“It’s halfway between Park City and Jackson,” Barrett said of Black Bear’s distance from established resorts towns in Utah and Wyoming.
Other places across the West to experience the phenomenon include Eagle County, Colo., or southwestern Montana, now home to ski and golf resorts including Big Sky and billionaire timber baron Tim Blixseth’s private Yellowstone Club. Tamarack Resort north of Boise opened in 2004 and has sold $500 million in real estate to help it finance ski lifts, a golf course and marina.
Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire Carsey Institute, said rural, agriculture-dependent counties saw an exodus in the 1990s, but many counties with scenery and recreation experienced substantial migration, often from older newcomers who were followed by younger people eager to sell or build them things.
The 75 million baby boomers born from 1945 to 1964 are active, wealthy and well-traveled, so pulling up roots and replanting them beneath a mountain panorama doesn’t sound so absurd. Johnson found scenic rural counties near metropolitan areas such as Denver or Salt Lake City have been even more powerful magnets for older newcomers.
“Not only is it easy for kids and grandchildren to get there, they want to come, because it’s such a nice place,” he said.
The area “is very popular with hikers and hunters who want a more secluded or backcountry experience,” said Dennis Duehren, Forest Service district ranger in Montpelier. “It’s gorgeous.”
Barrett and Auger have rezoned 2,200 of their 6,000 acres for home sites and commercial development. Construction includes a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, due to open in 2009, off-road vehicle trails and 10 lifts on a 800-acre “terrain park” for tubing and some skiing, Barrett said. That’s small potatoes compared to their eventual aim of a federal and state land exchange in the next decade, so skiing can be expanded.
Barrett wants Idaho to trade isolated parcels of state land located inside Forest Service-managed wilderness or grizzly bear habitat near Yellowstone National Park for less environmentally sensitive federal land in the Bear River Range.
Still, not everybody at Bear Lake is thrilled with the idea.
Rick Thomas’ family arrived three generations ago, farming hay and raising cattle in 125-soul Bloomington just across the fence line from Black Bear. At local meetings, he’s raised concerns that Barrett and Auger will run short of cash, leaving their project half-finished. After all, the first owner of Tamarack filed for bankruptcy in 1995, before the project north of Idaho’s capital city was rescued by a deep-pocketed Mexican investor.
Thomas also blames golf course construction, as well as temporary warming huts set up for potential investors, for scaring off wintering deer.
“That’s one of the main reasons people live here, for the fishing and hunting and back-to-nature type of stuff,” he said. “If that turns into the thing that they want it to, I’m not so sure I’m not going to pack my things and go somewhere else.”
Teri Eynon, a real-estate agent who moved from Montpelier to Phoenix before returning in 1989, believes the arrival of second-home owners at Black Bear Resort will be accompanied by service and construction workers who over the next decade could revive Bear Lake County’s economy.
“We are in desperate need of jobs and in desperate need of economic development,” Eynon said. “You just can’t make a living anymore. Our children are growing up and having to leave.
1/19/2008 (Ap News)
MONTPELIER, Idaho (AP) - Officials in Idaho's Bear lake County are joining their counterparts in Utah to plan for affordable housing.Worried that a proposed four-season ski resort will push up the price of housing, Bear Lake County and Rich County, Utah, hired a Denver-based consulting firm to study the need for affordable housing in the Bear Lake Valley.
Idaho's Bear Lake County studies affordable housing options
Officials expect growth to come from the proposed Black Bear Mountain Resort community being planned just south of Paris. Developers have agreed to make 10 percent of the housing they build affordable. But local leaders say the are planning for the housing needs of some 1,500 construction workers and more than 300 resort employees, as well as senior citizens.
By Rosa Moosman
Commissioners approve rezone for Black Bear Mountain
Bear Lake County Commissioners approved rezoning for the Black Bear Mountain Resort at their regular meeting Oct. 9.
Rezoning: Commissioner Montain Kunz said he had given more thought and time to the issue of rezoning for the Black Bear Mountain PUD and had considered all sides. I believe they have met requirements. Commissioner Vaughn Rasmussen said he had two concerns. One would be that if for some reason they are not able to proceed, if the property would revert back to the Ag-40 designation and the second was water. Judy George, chairman of P&Z, said the commissioners should check with legal council to determine if the designation can revert back automatically. The rezoning of the property allows the developers to apply for a large scale PUD. Kunz noted that approval will not make everybody happy, but he felt that long-term consideration of the needs of the valley warranted the approval. The conditions of the approval were that water does not adversely affect the two nearby communities and that, if legal council agrees, the land will revert back to the previous zone if the developers are unable to continue with the project.
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