As most of you esteemed WildSnow readers know, here in Colorado a former (semi-retired now, let his license lapse) realtor named Thomas Chapman is a gigawatt lightning rod for issues regarding what privileges the public has when it comes to private land. In the case of Chapman, this has come to a head a few times when he’s been involved in land deals that resulted in developing or exchanging what are known as “inholdings,” simply meaning parcels of private land surrounded by public land such as National Forest. We’ve covered this issue in a few heavily trafficked blog posts about Thomas Chapman and Colorado land issues.
Recently, Chapman has caught attention as one of the principles in Gold Hill Development (GHD), the company that bought an inholding near a Colorado ski resort (Telluride). The GHD inholding is frequently crossed by backcountry skiers and hikers. In announcing they did NOT give permission for the public to cross their land, GHD caused a local ruckus.
In my view, one of the problems with the GHD situation in Telluride is that many individuals seem to think that vilifying partner Thomas Chapman for his previous land deals is somehow a way to reach a solution to the current Bear Creek dilemma. We’re not sure how such deep thinkers plan on getting from point A to point H by using the old and tired technique of ad hominem attacks. But today, Outside Magazine published what some might consider a thinly veiled hit piece that’ll help the Chapman haters out there — yet conversely might get a few folks to realize the guy is human. The Outside mag article can be read here.
Overall, I thought Kelley McMillan’s article about Chapman was impressively detailed. But it appears to effort too much at being some kind of expose’ in linking to correspondence taken out of context and that sort of thing. In the end, it seems to make Chapman out to be some kind of evil genius who’s done a large amount of incredibly complex land deals that resulted in the accumulation of huge riches.
In reality, from what I can see Chapman has made a decent living — but he’s not sailing the Med in a 400 foot yacht. Instead, as McMilllan relates in her Outside article, Chapman lives a humble life near where he was born in Western Colorado. More, out of more than 200 property deals he’s been directly involved in during his 38 year real estate career, only four involved government and the public. Chapman told me that would be the Mott Black Canyon transaction in 1984, the McCluskey transaction in about 1986, the West Elk Land Exchange in 1994, and the sale of the Dave Calhoon Crystal Lake lands near Ironton to the Forest Service around 2003.
Credit to Kelley for one bit of amusement in her otherwise rather dry composition. She quotes a San Miguel County (where Bear Creek is located) Commissioner Joan May as saying “I think [Chapman and Curry] expected more public outrage.” Kelley goes on to paraphrase May’s feelings: “With access in question and tough high-country zoning laws, it’s doubtful anything will happen in Bear Creek for years, if ever.”
I have no idea how Commissioner May gauges how much “outrage” GHD expected. Perhaps she’s a mind reader in posession of an outrage gauge, or is counting bumper stickers? On the other hand, in these days of backcountry skiing booming as healthy recreation that could have economic benefits for San Miguel County (where Bear Creek is located), it’s sad that a politician has such a lack of vision for some of the most prime adventure skiing land in the state. I mean, why can’t the gal say something like “I don’t like what Chapman has done with his other land deals, but in this case, let’s make a purse out of a sow ear, and work with GHD to accomplish something that will be of lasting benefit to the public…”
Money talks, BS walks (or runs). The Bear Creek land does appear to have value to the Telluride ski resort as a possible base for resort expansion. GHD’s holdings also have value in that they are now blocking access to public land (ironically, inholdings don’t have such value until they are posted no-trespassing — logical, but a hard concept to grasp for some of us who don’t have experience with land dealings). Beyond all that, GHD’s land has value because they have use by right and can build several practically sized structures there. What is more, as Kelley McMillan relates in her Outside article, land deals that Chapman is involved in have a way of getting done.
Again, McMillan’s article is here. Join the Chapman click party that Outside is putting on today, then head back over here and let us know what you think!