$200 million project includes 208 residential units, two
lifts, seven trails, a lodge
The proposed South Face Village at Okemo received an Act 250 permit
on Sept. 13 for a ski-in and out residential development on Okemo
Mountain's south side in Ludlow.
The permitted project includes 208 residential units and a base
lodge as well as ski lifts and trails. The estimated cost is $200
million. The South Face development will be located on a portion of
a 266.80-acre property on the southeast slope of Okemo Mountain off
Trailside Road on the Miller and Carnes tracts.
Timber Creek at Okemo Number II, LLC and Okemo Limited Liability
Company (the ski resort which will build the lifts and trails,
install snowmaking, and operate the new skiing area, but will not
pay for village construction) submitted an Act 250 application to
the District #2 Environmental Commission based in Springfield in
October 2012. The hearings and fact finding concluded in April 2013
with the last public input request regarding wetlands ending in
Act 250 is Vermont's pioneering land use and development control
law. The Act 250 permit process considers a development's effect on
a host of considerations from town and regional plans and growth to
wildlife, aesthetics, and soils via ten statutory criteria. Some of
the ten criteria have sub-criteria so the Commissioners are charged
with giving a very thorough review to each Act 250 permit
The permit for the South Face Village at Okemo contains
conditions that are mostly customary, and there were "no
surprises," according to attorney Andrew Becker. Becker is VP
Administration and General Counsel for the Rossi Group whose
president Ted Rossi is the majority owner and main investor
behind Timber Creek at Okemo Number II.
Rossi, who has been skiing at Okemo Mountain since 1987, said
that along with his family he is "attached to the area and excited
about the project," noting it is "one of the premier family ski
resorts in the country."
Both Rossi and Becker commented that it is unusual for a
developer of such a large project to apply to Act 250 for the
entire project rather than for phases of a master plan.
Becker commented that although the build-out may take 10 years,
they decided "to plan, design, and engineer the entire project at
once" so that they could be ready to build it when the economy
"Both the Town of Ludlow and the District #2 Act 250 Commission
were thorough, professional, and courteous in our dealings. We have
a great deal of respect for them and the process," Becker said.
South Face Village
The permitted South Face Village at Okemo consists of a 15-lot
subdivision as well as 22 single-family units, 64 duplex units in
32 buildings, 120 townhouse units in 9 buildings, and two luxury
units atop a base lodge for a total of 208 residential units and 64
An 18,000-square-foot base lodge will include an 88-seat
restaurant, restrooms, and retail shop that will be open to the
public (ski-in-only access) as well as a private owners' area with
lockers, pool, fitness center, recreation room, and meeting room.
The top level of the South Village Base Lodge will have two
penthouse units, Rossi said.
The proposed skiing area of about 22 acres includes two lifts
and seven trails. The main lift will be a 2,600-foot fixed-grip
quad extending from the new base lodge to the base of the South
Face chair. A 1,500-foot secondary chairlift will primarily serve
the homeowners for ski-in/out access in a manner similar to "the
lower lift at Solitude," Rossi noted.
While South Face Village will be a private recreation community
for owners and their guests, Okemo skiers and riders will be able
to use the trails as well as the public portion of the base lodge
via access from Okemo's existing South Face (lift and trails)
Similarly, homeowners will be able to access all the terrain at
Okemo via the new lifts and Okemo's South Face Express Quad.
A unique feature of the project is that the energy-efficient
buildings will be fabricated offsite, which will shorten the
construction period. "They will be the most energy-efficient
units," Rossi said, noting they will be "built by Bensonwood, a
premier builder of post and beam homes."
Rossi noted that there will be substantial green space of 145
open acres. Bear mitigation took place via the green space, he
said. The remaining acreage includes other protected wildlife areas
constituting about 38 percent of the land with buildings and trails
on another 30 percent.
There is no definitive timetable at this time, but Rossi said
that they "hope to build the lifts for the 2014-15 season" and
start infrastructure in 2015-16. The presale of homes could start
in 2015 with the project build-out taking 10 or more years
depending on market demand and the economy.
The developers worked with Ludlow Town Manager Frank Heald to
reach an agreement to use the Village treatment plant for
wastewater disposal, Rossi said, noting the plant has capacity not
currently being used.
Others who have worked on project include: Architect Randall
Walter, who works for Bensonwood, which has
built homes in the
Ludlow area; SE Group for site plan, subdivision maps and landscape
architecture; VHB, Inc., civil engineering and hydrogeology;
Stantec, traffic impact study; and Larry Slason, attorney for the
Issues, conditions for permit
It should be noted that there was a renaming of the project from
Upper Timber Creek to South Face Village at Okemo after the Act 250
application was made. The permit and findings therefore refer to
the former project name of Timber Creek.
While the six-page permit did not contain any surprises for the
Applicants, the 27-page document known as the Findings of Fact and
Conclusions, which essentially shows how the Commission applied the
Ten Criteria of Act 250 to the Applicants' project, highlighted two
substantial issues, which the Commission thoroughly addressed in
They concerned Criteria 5 and 8, Traffic and Aesthetics, typically
two of the most complex and important issues for developers in
What was particularly significant under Criterion 5 - Traffic
and 9(K) Impact on Pubic Investments (Roads & Highways) was the
Commission's conclusion that the Applicants' proposed plans to
"mitigate traffic impacts through a variety of demand management
techniques, traffic management and defined traffic improvements"
[all enumerated within the findings] would do much to "alleviate
congestion and safety problems along the travel corridor as well as
On that basis, the Commission rejected a recommendation by the
Vermont Agency of Transportation that the "Applicants be
responsible for a proportional share of future transportation
improvements based on a corridor study plan yet to be conducted,"
stating, "We find this type of condition to be too open-ended."
Similarly, the Commission rejected the Southern Windsor Regional
Planning Commission's proposal that would have required the
Applicants to "pay for their fair share of developing a future
corridor planning study," stating in part, "The Commission is not
persuaded that such long-term corridor planning is the most
beneficial or practical mitigation for an Applicant such as Timber
The following was illustrative of the panel's thinking and
deliberations regarding Criterion 5: "The Commission concludes
that, for a project such as Timber Creek, discrete and verifiable
mitigation proposed by the Applicants and conditioned by this
permit will best address congestion, safety, and preservation of
the public's investment in the highway corridor."
Of interest regarding Criterion 8 - Aesthetics, the Commission
found that there would be an adverse affect on the on the
aesthetics or scenic or natural beauty of the area. Citing the
undeveloped nature of the tract of land and the high elevation as
not fitting the surroundings, the Commission noted it "will have an
adverse aesthetic impact."
But in applying the Quechee Test, which is used as legal
precedent to determine "undue adverse effect" in such cases, it
concluded there would not be "an undue adverse effect."
In evaluating the factors set forth in the Quechee Test, the
Commission found that: there was no violation of any scenic beauty
standards for the property (since they don't exist); the
development would not be shocking or offensive to the average
person; and the Applicants had made efforts to minimize aesthetic
impacts through the project's design and materials. The Commission
also addressed this in part by requiring that plans for the homes
be submitted for review and approval prior to construction.
Ted Reeves, P.E. and Okemo vice president and director of
planning and real estate development, commented that he and Tim
Mueller, Okemo's CEO and president, had been in discussions with
the village developer for some time and were "pleased to see the
While Okemo had been interested in developing the Miller Tract
for homes and skiing since 1994 when Okemo developed its South Face
skiing area, it wasn't economically feasible at that time. Okemo
then moved in the direction of Jackson Gore in 1996 when property
there became available to the resort. It offered an opportunity to
develop another base village as well as steeper and more varied
terrain and another learning area. Reeves noted that "Okemo still
has the Jackson Gore Village to complete, including a conference
center, commercial space and condominiums."
He also noted that he is optimistic that the economy is starting
to turn around and that the timing for the South Face Village at
Okemo project will be supported and well received by the family
market that Okemo enjoys.
In addition to the construction jobs that will be offered over
the 10-year duration of the South Face Village development, Reeves
noted, "Jobs that will be created include additional lift
attendants, snowmakers, food service positions, building
maintenance workers, and housekeepers. This additional work force
will be good for the local economy and the additional terrain will
be nice for our guests," he added.