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Big Blues

It’s been a very good San Diego election cycle for Linden Blue, proprietor with his brother Neal of General Atomics, the La Jolla defense contractor responsible for the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and other nifty implements of 21st-century warfare. A loyal member of the GOP, Blue backed the successful reelection bid of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, as well as the entire Republican slate for city council and city attorney. Why Blue — who gives huge sums to congressional campaigns — is so interested in local politics has been a mystery, since his main customer at General Atomics is the federal government. Maybe the fact that he dates Ronne Froman, the ex–rear admiral and former top aide to Sanders, has something to do with it. In any case, neither he nor Neal seems to have real estate interests here, aside from their big GA campus on Torrey Pines Mesa.

But it’s another story in the high-end Colorado ski town of Telluride, where the brothers, originally from Denver, own 572 acres on the so-called Valley Floor, between the main highway, 145, and the San Miguel River. The property, pristine meadowland that clings to soaring mountains at the end of the valley, is just outside town limits. The Blues bought the land in 1983 and sought to build a hotel, golf course, 22 houses — each at least 8000 square feet — and a shopping mall there. The mammoth proposal set off a decades-long fight with townspeople.

In 1993, Telluride voters approved creating an open-space fund to buy the property, and in 2002, the electorate voted to condemn the land. Two years ago, the town rejected a settlement to preserve 90 percent of the property in exchange for letting the Blues develop the rest. In the meantime, the Republican state legislature, friendly to the Blues, passed a law that barred “home rule” towns such as Telluride from condemning property outside their limits for open space. Using that statute, the Blues took Telluride to court, but a state appeals panel subsequently ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The Blues appealed, and last week the Colorado Supreme Court issued the presumably final word: voting 6-1, justices said the town could take the property.

The Blues declined to talk to reporters, but if the brothers were piqued by the court’s decision, they could take solace from the fact that they will be picking up a check for $50 million once the condemnation closes. Only $25 million is coming from the town. The rest will be paid by a wealthy group of neighbors called Friends of Telluride. Actress Daryl Hannah is a member.

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It’s been a very good San Diego election cycle for Linden Blue, proprietor with his brother Neal of General Atomics, the La Jolla defense contractor responsible for the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and other nifty implements of 21st-century warfare. A loyal member of the GOP, Blue backed the successful reelection bid of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, as well as the entire Republican slate for city council and city attorney. Why Blue — who gives huge sums to congressional campaigns — is so interested in local politics has been a mystery, since his main customer at General Atomics is the federal government. Maybe the fact that he dates Ronne Froman, the ex–rear admiral and former top aide to Sanders, has something to do with it. In any case, neither he nor Neal seems to have real estate interests here, aside from their big GA campus on Torrey Pines Mesa.

But it’s another story in the high-end Colorado ski town of Telluride, where the brothers, originally from Denver, own 572 acres on the so-called Valley Floor, between the main highway, 145, and the San Miguel River. The property, pristine meadowland that clings to soaring mountains at the end of the valley, is just outside town limits. The Blues bought the land in 1983 and sought to build a hotel, golf course, 22 houses — each at least 8000 square feet — and a shopping mall there. The mammoth proposal set off a decades-long fight with townspeople.

In 1993, Telluride voters approved creating an open-space fund to buy the property, and in 2002, the electorate voted to condemn the land. Two years ago, the town rejected a settlement to preserve 90 percent of the property in exchange for letting the Blues develop the rest. In the meantime, the Republican state legislature, friendly to the Blues, passed a law that barred “home rule” towns such as Telluride from condemning property outside their limits for open space. Using that statute, the Blues took Telluride to court, but a state appeals panel subsequently ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The Blues appealed, and last week the Colorado Supreme Court issued the presumably final word: voting 6-1, justices said the town could take the property.

The Blues declined to talk to reporters, but if the brothers were piqued by the court’s decision, they could take solace from the fact that they will be picking up a check for $50 million once the condemnation closes. Only $25 million is coming from the town. The rest will be paid by a wealthy group of neighbors called Friends of Telluride. Actress Daryl Hannah is a member.

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I wondered what happened to Admiral Froman after the Sundroad investigation. So what do we infer from this expose'? Does the Blues Brothers debaucle in Telluride mean they underwrote the GOP funding for Mayor Jerry Sanders in order to make sure no small town in San Diego can prevent a developer from laying waste to the environment? Sorry, I do not get the connection.

June 18, 2008

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