Okemo Expansion Rejection News Premature


SAM Magazine--Ludlow, Vt., October 22, 1999--Reports based on the fact that two members of the three-member state District Environmental Commission found that a $100 million expansion plan for Okemo Mountain, Vt., violated state guidelines on air pollution, stream pollution, aesthetics, wildlife habitat and conformance with local planning are premature. In the 20 months since Okemo submitted the plans, changes have been made that should mitigate almost all of the commission's concerns.

According to Pam Cruickshank, Okemo's marketing communications manager, air quality is no longer an issue because the resort decided fireplaces in the Jackson Gore Village project's condominiums would be gas-fired and not wood-burning as was first proposed. Secondly, she says, streams and wildlife habitat will be protected because Okemo has redesigned the bottom and top terminals of two proposed lifts to move them away from what the state considers a natural area. And finally, the remaining areas of concern, aesthetics and local planning conformance, are the purview of the local development and review board (DRB).

That remaining sticking point centers on the plan's proposed 250-room condominium hotel. Two of the state commissioners said there was no provision in local zoning for such a hotel. But the chairman of the commission dissented, saying that the development was appropriate. Now it's up to the local board to decide, but whatever the outcome, the mood at Okemo is bright as resort owner Tim Mueller remains confident that any concerns can be worked out.

"The issues we saw that might be controversial were all extremely positive," says Cruickshank. "Now, we're just waiting to find out what the local DRB says."