Okemo Offers Town Development Impact Funds

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Ludlow, Vt., Feb. 16--Under an unprecedented agreement hammered out by the Town of Ludlow and Okemo Mountain, Vt., the ski resort will pay an estimated $1.5 million over 12 years into a town enterprise fund to help defray the municipal impacts of the resort's planned Jackson Gore expansion. The enterprise fund agreement announced last Thursday night took 14 months to develop after the idea was first pitched by Okemo President Tim Mueller in December of 1998. At that time the Jackson Gore project-450 homes, a base village, 16 new trails, 55 acres of glades and five lifts-was closing in on approval and Mueller saw that the town would need help in supporting additional visitors.

The enterprise funds will be raised according to a formula that sets aside 20 cents from every lift ticket sold up to 400,000 skier visits a year, and 46 cents from every lift ticket sold after the 400,000-visit threshold. Mueller, who says skier visits should increase by 50 percent once Jackson Gore is is completed, estimates the formula would generate a minimum of $80,000 a year for Ludlow. The expansion project faces another local review early next month to clear up some construction details.

"We think we're pretty good corporate citizens," says Mueller. "We want to show the public . . . we'll provide financial help." A five-member committee will decide how to spend the money in the enterprise fund. But according to a wish list drawn up by Ludlow officials, some projects to be tackled over the next ten years include a new police station, a new ambulance and sport utility vehicle for the ambulance service, anew municipal recreation area with tennis courts, playgrounds and a skating rink, and additional sidewalks. Town officials were so taken with the idea of a Ludlow Enterprise Fund (LEF) that they have decided to require future developers to contribute to the LEF as well.

"When Okemo does well, the town does well," says Pam Cruickshank, Okemo director of public relations and a town resident since 1976, "and that's the way it should be." Cruickshank points out that in addition to the LEF money, it's estimated Jackson Gore will generate $4.1 million in taxes over 10 years and that once the town's operating costs are subtracted, that figure will result in an additional $1.9 million in town revenue.