Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.
The town of Vail is now armed with an argument to again emulate its past performance on economic stimulation by unleashing more real estate development.
It can portray its pre-recession redevelopment agenda to expand or improve the inventory of resort guest beds and commercial retail space as being the primary source of its current increases in sales tax revenues. There are indications that the stage is being set by some advocates for another round of zoning incentives to again prime the pump in the ongoing efforts to replace the old with the new.
Several who participated in town-sponsored scoping meetings did not believe there was the market potential for redevelopment that would markedly change the scale in the heart of the Vail Village Bridge Street district.
It is the fringe Vail Village residential neighborhoods that are coming under the most scrutiny from redevelopers. Several of these Vail Village residential neighborhoods did not experience all that much redevelopment during the pre-recession building boom. Most fall outside of the more restrictive design regulations for the commercial center of Vail Village.
This is one reason the town is moving to further regulate in anticipation of political efforts to increase the value potential of certain properties that would entice their redevelopment as commercial or resort residential properties. Those neighborhoods with effective restrictive covenants may have a stronger defense against the propensity in recent decades to entertain immoderate commercialization and urbanization.
Vail Village, west side: Larger and older properties, such as the Lodge at Vail and those in the Bishop Park neighborhood, have come under discussion in the town’s planning sessions as candidates for redevelopment. To do that, the town must find a way to remove the traffic congestion from Vail Road and West Meadow Drive caused by Vail Valley Medical Center traffic and increased recreational pedestrian traffic.
Vail Village, east side: On the east side of Vail Village, the Golden Peak neighborhoods have also been mentioned in the town’s redevelopment discussions. The proposed redevelopment of the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail building has shed light on the extent to which the entire neighborhood could be made more commercial and urban.
Vail Resorts believes it has the wherewithal to someday build a residential-commercial complex at Golden Peak on a parcel of undeveloped recreational open space land east of Chair 6. There are those who hypothesize that Golden Peak is the most ideal place to put a bottom-to-top-of-mountain gondola once the effects of global warming become more apparent. They speculate that the northern orientation of the skiable terrain in this area, with the expanded snowmaking coverage, can retain snow earlier and later than any other on the front face of Vail Mountain. The presence of a gondola is a magnet for high-density development.
Town’s attempt to rezone not setting well with some neighborhood property owners: The town’s creation of a new town house zone district that could reduce the neighborhood’s development potential below pre-recession master plan levels has not set well with some property owners in the larger Golden Peak neighborhood. These owners believe they should have the right to redevelop their aging properties to the same height and size as pre-recession redeveloped buildings in the immediate area, which are between four and five stories (56 feet), whereas the town house zone district has a 38-foot height limit.
Keeping the traffic flowing: The amount of parking required by the town for these types of buildings could at times overwhelm the roadway system, which is already inadequate during peak tourism seasons. A cursory analysis of the amount of parking that could be generated by two levels of structured parking on all properties that are likely to be further developed throughout the entire area show these structures could yield enough parking for an estimated 1,200 cars. This amount of parking, which is not uncommon for the size of the buildings desired, is equivalent to the number of parking spaces in the Lionshead parking structure and is a several-fold increase beyond what currently exists in the area.
This potential eventuality creates a scenario whereby any neighborhood expansion of lasting significance should be accompanied by practical remedies to the neighborhood’s persistent traffic congestion on Vail Valley Drive.
Means to an end: The solutions to the challenges of congestion are tied to the financing of potential costly traffic circulation projects or, as has happened in other areas of Vail Village, restricting vehicular access to only property owners, public buses and private shuttle service.
Importantly, at some point and perhaps the most complicated to resolve, there must be political agreement among all those most affected, the neighborhood property owners, so that the proposed scope of the speculative redevelopment can correct these persistent traffic access challenges.
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