Ah, Aspen, a SecondShelters.com paradise of stunning ski homes owned by some of the world’s wealthiest and most glamorous travelers who desire the pleasure of a winter retreat in the snow.
This dramatic vacation home was previously owned by newscaster Paula Zahn and real estate magnate Richard Cohen who sold in 2007 for $14.5 million as part of their divorce but bought the property for just $3.8 million in 2000. The transaction was one of the 10 biggest deals in Aspen in 2007.
The line at Breckenridge Cannabis Club goes out the door as vacationers and residents alike take advantage of Colorado’s new recreational marijuana laws. (Kathryn Olson/AP)
We’ve seen photos and stories from Colorado ski towns such as Aspen and Breckenridge showing vacationers filing lines out the door at marijuana shops, so of course, we had to wonder what kind of impact legal pot could have on Colorado real estate. Are more buyers putting it in their pipes and smoking it?
Turns out the Colorado Association of Realtors was wondering the exact same thing. After all, with 136 pot retailers in the state as of Dec. 2013, buyers were throwing green after green, eventually causing a state-wide shortage of smokables. But is recreational marijuana a boon for Colorado real estate, or a burden?
“Some people don’t want to come [to Colorado] with their families,” says Joyce Burford, executive director of Colorado Association of Ski Towns. “Because they have this image that all these pot smokers will be everywhere.” That’s not happening, she says, and “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
The majority of counties in Colorado have either already passed bans on recreational marijuana retailers or have delayed making a decision and placed a moratorium on pot business; closely monitoring how enactment is working in other parts of the state.
It looks as though recreational marijuana businesses will be absent from large portions of the state for the foreseeable future. According to the Denver Post, of the ten largest cities in Colorado (by population), only Denver is expected to accept license applications for recreational marijuana stores this year.
Right now, Denver and Denver County are the only areas where you can still apply for a marijuana sales license. So vacation property owners don’t really have to worry about an influx of new ganja businesses. And in Vail, there’s a complete moratorium on recreational marijuana sales. Still, folks in Aspen are buying pot, but at least one Realtor doesn’t think it will do much for real estate sales, if anything at all.
“I don’t think [legal marijuana] is making that much difference,” Joshua Landis, a real-estate agent in Aspen, said in this piece in The Daily Beast.
“People have always been able to access marijuana in Aspen. Nobody is out smoking marijuana on the corner” just because it’s suddenly legal to possess and use it in private (it’s still illegal to use publicly). In addition, he says, “I don’t think it has any effect” on property values. “No one who can afford to buy property in Aspen is going to make their decision based on marijuana policy.”
If the lines snaking outside of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club are any indication, pot tourism might make Colorado the new Amsterdam. And heck, it might be a draw so much in that it awakens latent demand for buyers who want to move to a 4:20-friendly state, but perhaps in more affordable areas such as Denver and its surrounding suburbs.
Others, like Lubbock’s Colt and Amanda Smith, are among those planning to move to the state to ride the new economy. The couple founded the Lubbock chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
They had talked about retiring in Colorado but decided to act early once the new law took effect.
“We have our house on the market right now,” Colt Smith said. “It makes sense to find exile in a place that has more reasonable laws than to sit around and wait for Texas to get there.”
The Smiths hope to launch a marijuana edibles business once they establish residency.
“We feel like Colorado is just beautiful and has beautiful laws,” Smith said. “When people tell me they’re going there to ski now, they use air quotes.”
I called BS; how, I asked Dallas, can you even tell me that a ski company is green except when the snow is all melted on the slopes? EasyL the resorts know they HAVE to become more sustainable IF they are to stay in business…
SS: OK Dallas, a ski company uses water and sometimes makes snow — how do they even start to be sustainable?
D.A: Great question and I’m fairly certain that Aspen would be the first to acknowledge that they are in a resource intensive business. But, they are not going to shut that business down, so the question is how do they become more sustainable? Aspen is doing that through a number of initiatives in addition to using their brand to help spread the word about sustainability. Their website does a good job of highlighting their environmental efforts.
SS: Can these resorts use alternative energy sources?
D.A: Absolutely, and that is happening. Sticking with Aspen, they’ve invested in a solar array at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, developed a micro-hydroelectric plant at Snowmass and partnered with a coal mine to capture and utilize methane gas that is normally vented into the atmosphere during the mining process. On the coal mine project, the methane is much more worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and through this process, the methane is cleaned and used. It provides enough energy to power all 4 Aspen resort mountains on an annual basis.
SS: What are the three biggest changes you are seeing in terms of conservation efforts at these swanky resorts?
1. Communications to guests. Resorts are increasingly communicating the importance of sustainability to their guests.
2. Energy efficiency. This is generally considered the low hanging fruit. Projects that conserve energy (think changing light bulbs as one of the most basic and effective) are generally the easiest to pencil out and explain to others in the corporate hierarchy.
3. Building efficiency. Related to #2, but more directed at new construction, resorts are increasingly changing their building practices to construct more efficient buildings. They often try to attain certain objective standards, such as LEED certification by the US Green Building Council.
Dallas Addison is a Dallas-based lawyer who has helped many clients throughout the country buy, sell, develop and manage all types of real estate over the years, with a particular focus on recreational and hospitality-based real estate, such as golf courses, resorts, ranches, second homes, etc. He is also a founding principal of Preservation Land Company. He is a regulator contributor to SecondShelters.com.