Chamonix neighborhood: Still on schedule?
October 6, 2016
VAIL — Town officials once hoped work on a new neighborhood along Chamonix Lane could start late this year. That timeline has stretched — to May of 2017. But big decisions remain.
The 3.6-acre parcel has been owned by the town for several years, and has always been seen as perhaps the last relatively large piece of housing-appropriate property available in town. In the past couple of years, though, ideas for the property have shifted. Council members a few years ago decided that instead of putting as many units as possible on the property, the better use for the land is a new neighborhood where people will raise their families.
There seems to be plenty of demand for that kind of project. A survey conducted early this year drew nearly 190 responses. Many of those people are right in the heart of the neighborhood-resident market. In all, 40 percent of those who completed the survey could afford a mortgage between $300,000 and $400,000. Nearly one-third could afford a mortgage of $400,000 or more
Aside from that broad view, though, there isn't much focus to the long-term vision for the site.
Sharpening the focus
That focus could become more sharp after the Vail Town Council's Nov. 1 meeting. That's when a group led by Triumph Development will present a handful of options for the parcel.
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Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said those options will include everything from unit sizes and the mix of units to how those units will be built.
Current thinking has the project consisting entirely of townhomes. There's been an idea for three duplex units, but Ruther said a pair of three-unit buildings would offer buyers the same square footage as duplexes, but fewer buildings frees up more space for parking and neighborhood amenities.
There are several options for construction, from site-built to various kinds of "system-built" units, Ruther said. System building puts much of the construction in a factory elsewhere. Ruther said options range from wall panels built and assembled on site, to more fully-built units that come carpeted, wired and partially plumbed.
During a presentation to the Vail Town Council on Tuesday, council member Greg Moffet told Ruther and Triumph Development's Michael O'Connor that whatever is built has to be something he'd want to live in himself.
"I'm not willing to tell someone with a four-person family that 'you should be willing to move here even though I wouldn't,'" Moffet said.
Council member Dick Cleveland also questioned the schedule of starting to build homes by May 1, 2017.
"We've never had the discussion of who the target market is," Cleveland said, adding that he worries that the designs to come will "box in" the council.
Town Manager Stan Zemler told the council that the information coming Nov. 1 is intended to give that group a basis from which to make decisions, yet still provide plenty of options.
'Something to react to'
"We need to give you something to react to," Zemler told the council. "This isn't a final product, but it's something we can talk about … We want to give you something you can narrow down."
The Vail Local Housing Authority hasn't been involved in much of the Chamonix discussions. But that group recently took a long-term housing plan to the council. Steve Lindstrom, chairman of the volunteer board, said the Chamonix project is an important part of the town's future.
"We have such needs, pretty much anything we do will be part of what we need," Lindstrom said.
As a longtime Vail resident, Lindstrom has seen the town and the broader valley struggle with housing. He said the Chamonix site was once seen as a place to address a lot of different needs. As the focus on that land has shifted toward a neighborhood for long-term residents, Lindstrom said there's been more attention paid to other pieces of land that might serve other needs.
"This site doesn't have to hold up the whole world," Lindstrom said.
As housing has again drawn more focus in the community, Lindstrom said he's seeing more cooperation lately between government, business and other private interests.
And, while everyone wants housing as soon as possible, Ruther said he's taking in stride the length of time the project is consuming.
"What we're learning is if this was easy, it would have already been done," Ruther said. "While this is taking time, it's because these issues are complex."
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.