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Where the Sidewalk Ends

Even if one community turns them down, developers always know they can get what they want from another.

More disturbingly, his HBE Corporation, which owns the Adam's Mark chain, has been dogged by accusations of racism for years. In 1994 the company lost a $5 million discrimination suit. A key witness testified that managers at the St. Louis hotel told him that both Kummer and his vice president had said they were afraid that having blacks in the employment office was attracting too many blacks to apply for work at the hotel, making the hotel bar "too dark."

And earlier this year, the Adam's Mark settled a racial-discrimination suit in Florida for $8 million. That lawsuit, which was joined by the federal government and the State of Florida, alleged that five black men staying at the Daytona Beach hotel during the 1999 Black College Reunion were subjected to multiple indignities, including being required to wear orange arm bands for re-entry into the hotel while white guests were not, and being harassed by hotel security. In its companion suit, the government said blacks were charged higher rates for rooms and segregated in less desirable areas of the hotel. As a result of the suit, several religious and civic organizations canceled events at the Denver Adam's Mark.

Kummer did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The best-laid plans: Town manager William Powell wanted to control growth around Eagle.
John Johnston
The best-laid plans: Town manager William Powell wanted to control growth around Eagle.
Endangered species: Barbara Watkins keeps horses in a part of Douglas County that Aurora plans to annex.
John Johnston
Endangered species: Barbara Watkins keeps horses in a part of Douglas County that Aurora plans to annex.

Racism hasn't been an issue in Eagle County, but Kummer's overbearing manner has, and some people believe he might have succeeded sooner in developing his property if not for his attitude. "There are some decent developers out there who believe in inclusion and working with the community, but Fred Kummer isn't one of them," says Hannah Evans, who owns a ranch near Eagle. "He's fought this community every step of the way. He's a spoiled brat."

What most frustrates Eagle town officials, however, is the attitude of the county commissioners. "We attempted to have an intergovernmental agreement with the county that would ratify that we were on a common course," Powell says about the development of the master plan. But such an agreement would have legally bound both the city and county to follow the Eagle area plan, and while that plan was officially added to the county master plan, in Colorado such master plans can be ignored, revised, or even eliminated at any time by elected officials.

Johnnette Phillips, one of the two county commissioners who voted in favor of the Adam's Rib Ranch (Tom Stone also approved it, while the board's lone Democrat, Michael Gallagher, voted against it), insists the county master plan was never intended to be anything more than an advisory document that would change over time. "The master plan is to give general direction," she says, adding that while it was approved by the planning commissioners, their philosophy doesn't always agree with the county commissioners. "I feel the Eagle community plan is outdated and needs to be revamped."

Phillips is also highly critical of the town for spurning Kummer. "They wrote their own destiny when they denied all of Fred Kummer's projects. They failed to work in good faith with Mr. Kummer. I've always felt growth should be within city limits. The town had the choice to annex all of [his] properties so it would be within their control. They also could have had over $9 million of amenities he would have dedicated to the town. They just didn't approve it."

Town officials, though, say the county allowed Kummer to manipulate them. "The developer is playing the county off the town, and vice-versa," says trustee Heicher.

According to Phillips, though, if the county had denied Kummer's proposal as well, he might have simply sold off his land in 35-acre parcels. Under state law, counties aren't allowed to regulate the development of properties with a single home on 35 acres or more. "With 35-acre parcels, we'd have no control," says Phillips. "There would be no infrastructure, and we'd have a lot of septic tanks. It's not as good as a planned subdivision."

Phillips also scoffs at the notion that Kummer's developments will add to sprawl in Eagle County. "Sprawl is a word that's become a cliche. I can recognize it on the Front Range along I-25. This development will be out of sight unless you come into Eagle and drive up the Brush Creek Valley."

At the end of March, the commissioners gave Kummer another victory when they approved his 300-home Frost Creek project even further up the valley. That development -- which will also feature gated vacation homes built around a golf course -- was again okayed by Phillips and Stone, with Gallagher dissenting.

In doing so, the commissioners went against their own planning commissioners, who had recommended in a 5-2 vote that the project be denied, citing the density of the homes, the problem of leapfrogging developments, and the effect on wildlife, specifically the deer and elk that migrate through the valley.

The town of Eagle's Powell points out that there is a strong pro-growth lobby in Eagle County since it has grown so quickly -- posting annual growth rates of 10 to 12 percent -- and that as many as one in five residents now makes his living from construction and development.

In fact, Kummer and other developers are major campaign contributors in Eagle County. Phillips collected contributions from several of Kummer's employees during her 1996 campaign, while in the last election Stone received $495 directly from Kummer's development company and $500 from the Denver law firm that represents him, the politically well-connected Brownstein Hyatt & Farber.

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