Another developer withdraws from Hatcher Pass ski project

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2001

WASILLA (AP) -- The latest plan for a ski resort at Hatcher Pass has fallen through, in part because the developer determined a ski area alone wouldn't make any money.

Borough Assembly members met in a closed session Tuesday night to digest the news, which was delivered in a letter last week.

Anchorage developer Greg Romack told the borough in writing he was withdrawing his support.

''After several years of work and unsuccessful attempts at receiving funding to help the project, we are now of the opinion that the future of the project may rest with a different ownership process,'' he said.

Romack, who owns Davis Constructors and Engineers Inc., an Anchorage-based company, took over a 55-year lease four years ago that gave him rights to develop 11,000 acres of state land surrounding Government Peak in Hatcher Pass.

He had planned to build a ski resort with a convention center and a hotel. The idea was to draw enough summer tourist traffic to make the resort profitable, offsetting any winter losses.

But the proposed broader development drew objections from residents and conservation groups, who said they were concerned about sewage treatment and other environmental impacts.

Romack said several other hurdles remained, including extending power and water to the area and securing borough funding. As the $18 million project evolved, plans called for spending $10 million in public money.

Assembly members were concerned about how they'd come up with that kind of cash, Borough Mayor Tim Anderson told the Anchorage Daily News.

''How are we going to come up with $10 million?'' he said. ''We're still looking.''

Borough officials also questioned Romack's request for title to 1,500 acres of adjoining borough land, which Romack said he needed to raise money for the project.

Officials still hope to move the project along, Anderson said, and are looking at buying Romack's interest in the lease.

''We're going to try to look at this and find a different direction to go,'' Anderson said.

The idea of a Hatcher Pass ski resort has fueled economic development dreams for years. Supporters say the project would bring jobs to the valley and make a business from what is already a mecca for hundreds of skiers and snowboarders.

They flock to the area on weekends. Instead of ski lifts, they ride uphill in the backs of pickups and ski down the open meadows, or pay a commercial snow-cat operation to haul them high up the slopes.

Attempts to develop the area over the past 20 years have gone nowhere, however. A $221 million plan by a Japanese corporation -- which called for a dude ranch and golf course -- ended when the company backed out.

An Idaho developer, Fred Rogers, took over after that with a more modest plan but was unable to raise enough money.

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