Property values, cost and process were among some of the concerns raised by Mountain Village property owners at a Thursday meeting with Telluride Medical Center CEO John Gardner. 

The meeting was hosted by the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association and open to the public at Mountain Village Town Hall, and more than 100 people were in attendance, in addition to more than 50 watching a live video stream, according to a count provided by TMVOA.

Gardner offered a summary of what the Telluride Hospital District is planning, including tentative plans for an approximately 30,000-square-foot medical center in Mountain Village to replace the current facility in Telluride, which “no longer works” due to its age and small size, the CEO said.

After a lengthy site selection process that culminated in 2014, the hospital district board chose a parcel in Mountain Village for the new medical center, but that hasn’t been the end of the discussion. The board is still seeking a mitigation permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for wetlands on the parcel, which sits between Mountain Village Town Hall and the gondola parking garage. The Mountain Village Town Council offered the parcel free of charge for the new medical center, and that bothered some Mountain Village owners in attendance Thursday. 

“How free is it?” Mountain Village property owner Jim Royer asked during the meeting. “We’re very concerned about this development, about what it’ll do to traffic and parking, about whether or not the helipad requires Lift 10 and the gondola to be evacuated when a helicopter is coming in and out. 

“And then, if Prop 69 passes and healthcare becomes free in Colorado, we will have a facility here with a parade of people coming up to this quiet little village to access a hospital that we will have to pay for, so that’s the angst that exists over here,” he continued.

Royer, a TMVOA board member, said he was speaking as a private citizen when reached by the Daily Planet after the meeting. The organization has not taken an official position on the matter. Royer was referencing Amendment 69, which Colorado voters will decide on in November. If passed, Amendment 69 would create ColoradoCare, a healthcare payment system designed to finance healthcare for Colorado residents, partly through an additional income tax. 

When one Telluride resident suggested the road into Mountain Village might need to be widened to four lanes to accommodate increased traffic to the new medical center, laughter spread among some of the other attendees.

In response to the suggestion, one Mountain Village owner asked, “And what would that do to our property values in our quiet little village up here of 1,500 people?”

“This is a no place for a 40,000-, or even a 20,000-square-foot medical facility. It will ruin our property values and cause us two years of construction problems,” the owner, Brian Eaton, continued. 

When one woman, another self-identified Mountain Village resident, responded, saying, “We need to understand that there are all types of people who live here in Mountain Village and need to be served,” several attendees applauded.

A disagreement arose during the meeting between Stu Fraser, who served as Telluride mayor during the site-selection process, and Dan Garner, who has served on both the Telluride Hospital District Board and the Mountain Village Town Council. Fraser said the hospital district asked the town of Telluride to bypass its normal processes when discussing a town-owned parcel as a potential site of the new medical center.

“We refused to” bypass our normal process “because we felt very strongly that when you’re dealing with public land, it was very important that the public have involvement in it,” Fraser said. “It really came down to bypassing (the Historic and Architectural Review Commission), (the Planning and Zoning Commission) and council. A lot of people would like to have that available to them, love to not have to go to HARC or P&Z, but that’s not the way it works down there.”

Garner had a different interpretation.

“HARC and P&Z were not going to be involved that early on,” he said. “Later on they would be involved in all the building issues and zoning issues. We always felt we would have to go to HARC and P&Z.

“In the final analysis, we had no sites, and Mountain Village came up with the site that nobody had thought of before, because it wasn’t planned for anything, and so that was basically a savior for the medical center in this community to have a site we could build on that allowed for the expansion we needed,” Garner continued. “The Mountain Village Town Council decided to put in a proposal. They are elected officials. They are allowed to make that decision. The public elected them. … The medical center had no choice in Telluride whatsoever.”

Gardner (the CEO, as opposed to Garner, the former board member) asked the community to come together to support the new facility, and to bring the hospital district ideas for an alternate site if they know of them. 

“Let’s move forward,” Gardner said. “This has been a long process. We have a significant community need, we’re ready to go, we want to go, we have a great plan and think we can keep our community healthy.”

Benitez said the TMVOA is working on a website that would gather as many documents and as much information about the project as is available, and that the site would be up and running in two weeks or so.