Chamonix neighborhood may have more room | VailDaily.com

Chamonix neighborhood may have more room

What’s the difference?

A townhome and a condominium sometimes look similar, but there can be important differences. In a townhome, residents essentially own their unit from the ground up.

A condo is owned, but someone on a second or third floor owns only the living space.

That means a condo can have an unfinished basement. A condo can’t offer that extra space.

VAIL — The Chamonix property in West Vail has always been viewed as the next place the town could create a neighborhood for young families. It’s probably the last place for such a neighborhood, too. That’s why town officials want to get the plan right.

The town has owned the 3.2-acre parcel roughly behind the West Vail fire station for more than a decade. It was always seen as a place for housing, but building anything was delayed, in part, by the national economic slump that began in 2008. Town officials for the past year or so have taken a new, serious look at just what to put on the land.

Beyond bringing families to Vail, town officials want to keep those families in town as they grow. That’s why units keep being subtracted from plans for the land. The answer, at least for now, is fewer units that might be more attractive to young families. That wasn’t always the case.

VALUABLE UNITS

When the town started eyeing what to build on the land, the first thought was for a good number of appreciation-capped homes. An initial idea called for as many as 75 units. That would mean lots of small residences and not a lot of open areas.

During the past several months, town officials have looked at a project made up of duplex, townhome and condominium units, with all the residences adding up to somewhere around 55 units, along with about 50,000 square feet of open space.

Vail Town Council members told staffers on Tuesday to look at even fewer units, perhaps as few as 43. The idea is to open up more parking for residents while maintaining open space in the area.

“The key issue here is that (these units) are for sale — people want parking and a little more square footage,” council member Jenn Bruno said. “This is (fewer) units, but they’re the units I want to see.”

Council members looked at the latest ideas for Chamonix right after a tour of the new Lions Ridge apartments. While council members uniformly praised the quality of those apartments, they said home buyers are going to want more, from space to parking to places to tell the kids, “I’m busy; go outside for a while.”

That need for space may eliminate some of the smallest units from the project.

“We probably don’t need one-bedrooms at all,” council member Margaret Rogers said.

PLEASING FAMILIES

The problem, according to council member Greg Moffet, is that young couples with one child who buy a two-bedroom unit will start looking for a bigger place as soon as a second child is on the way. The town needs to find ways to keep those young families in Vail, he said. That means either three-bedroom units or two-bedroom townhomes with unfinished basements that can be adapted to growing families.

“We need to work toward lower density and livability so we can keep our (public) school open,” Moffet said.

Mayor Andy Daly added that buyers also generally want their own entry ways for their homes instead of common hallways usually found at apartment buildings.

HOUSING MARKET STUDY

But finding out just what people want to buy is going to take some work. While the town commissioned its last housing market study in April of 2014, council members said it’s time for a new one.

“We want to ask what it would take for you to move to Vail or to stay in Vail,” Moffet said.

Moffet said private home builders conduct those kinds of studies before launching new projects.

“That’s not what government does — let’s turn away from what government does,” he said.

Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said he has proposals in hand from firms proposing to do just that sort of study. Ruther said he’ll contact those companies.

While decisions are being made about the future of the property, the design is still in its early stages. Still, work could begin in 2016, with units coming on in phases after that.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.