VAIL — Nothing has been easy about the town of Vail’s ownership of the Timber Ridge apartments. But the Town Council on Tuesday voted to approve an agreement that will replace the buildings on the eastern half of the property.
That approval didn’t come easy, either. The council voted 5-2, with members Margaret Rogers and Dale Bugby opposed, to an agreement that would extend the developers’ lease on the eastern part of the property to 50 years and give the developers the option to buy the property for $5 million some time in the next decade. If the developers don’t purchase the property, then they’ll pay rent to the town for the remaining 40 years of the lease.
Those changes were requested after developers Gary Gorman and Jen Wright found they couldn’t line up investors and other financing for the project, which will replace the existing apartments on the east side of the 10-acre parcel with 113 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The original agreement with Wright and Gorman was approved in November of 2013, and construction was supposed to begin in May of this year. Then the developers hit their financial hurdles and came back to the town asking for revisions to the development agreement.
The potential changes were usually discussed in executive sessions that are closed to the public and got a first public hearing at the council’s Aug. 5 meeting. At that meeting, council members asked for more time to review the possible changes.
Rogers and Bugby on Tuesday remained unconvinced of the deal’s merits. Both wondered if the town was being short-changed in the deal, especially given that the town paid $20 million for the entire property about a decade ago.
“The purchase price is too low for property we spent $10 million on,” Rogers said during an extended argument against the deal.
Bugby said the town could “do better” in negotiations with the developer, while adding that the project should be built.
Longtime Vail resident Paul Rondeau also opposed the deal. Reading a statement to the council, Rondeau said he’d prefer the town put in the money needed to make the project happen instead of extending the lease term or offering the property for possible sale.
Town officials in the past had been asked to participate in rebuilding the apartments but had declined.
The last plan for redeveloping the property — one of three that ultimately failed — had a financial gap of $8 to $10 million, which the developer asked the town to fill.
Mayor Andy Daly said the town would need to take on debt if it took on the development itself. That’s debt that could be used to “improve our standing as a world-class resort,” Daly said.
Council member Greg Moffet also defended the deal, and Wright, noting that Wright was part of a team that created a viable project at “The Ruins” near Cascade Village. That project was mostly concrete footings for decades before finally being developed.
‘WE NEED HOUSING’
Council member Dave Chapin, co-owner of Vendetta’s restaurant, said his employees are constantly looking for housing.
“If we don’t have happy employees, they’ll go someplace else,” Chapin said. While noting his reluctance about the potential sale price, Chapin said “we need housing; we’ve got a developer in place.”
And, Chapin added, the Wright-Gorman team is the only group that had come forward with a plan for the apartments.
“There’s no one knocking on our door (to develop) the second half of this property,” Daly said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
“There’s no one knocking on our door (to develop) the second half of this property.”