Chamonix plans nearly complete; on track for spring construction
Affordable for whom?
• 100 percent of area median income ($62,000 to $88,400 per year): The smallest two-bedroom home.
• 120 percent of area median income: The smallest three-bedroom home.
• 140 percent of area median income: The mid-range three-bedroom.
• 160 percent of area median income: The largest three-bedroom.
VAIL — After months of discussion and countless hours of design and number-crunching, the Vail Town Council made some hard decisions about a proposed new townhome neighborhood in West Vail. Those decisions came not a meeting too soon.
The project, a 32-townhome neighborhood along Chamonix Lane, is scheduled to make its first appearance before the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission at that board’s Jan. 9 meeting. That’s the first step toward getting town approval for the project.
That process has to start Jan. 9 if officials hope to break ground in the spring. If that happens, then the first homeowners could move in by the end of 2017.
But before that meeting on Jan. 9, the Town Council needed to make some crucial decisions, including:
Between the purchase price of the property, infrastructure work and permit fee waivers, the town has already put an estimated $3.6 million into the project.
Still, current estimates put the price range of the units between $402,000 and $734,000. All but the top-priced units would be affordable to families making between 100 percent and 140 percent of Eagle County’s area median income.
Still, several residents — or hope-to-be residents — have complained those prices are simply too high.
To help cut the purchase price, council member Greg Moffet proposed a cash subsidy of $100 per square foot on the units. Spread across 32 units, that would be roughly $4.7 million.
“By throwing a subsidy at this, we make this available to a broader class of neighbors,” Moffet said.
By a 4-3 show-of-hands margin, council members rejected the idea.
Council member Jenn Bruno summed up the opposition by saying the town has already invested enough into the project.
“There are more than 32 people who will qualify,” Bruno said.
But there are still people who believe the prices are too high.
“You guys are narrowing (buyers) down with every single vote,” Minturn resident Bobby L’Heureux said. “We do pretty well, and can’t afford this.”
The council approved a mix of units at different price points. There will be 10 two-bedroom units, five each at different price points. The remaining 22 units will be three-bedroom townhomes, with those units mixed at three different price points. Under the plan, there would be 10 of the smallest three-bedroom homes, and eight slightly larger units.
The most contentious proposal was about the four largest homes, each of not quite 2,000 square feet. Those homes pack the largest estimated price — $734,000. That makes the homes affordable to families earning 160 percent of the area median income.
There was some discussion of converting those units to smaller homes, but the Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said deviations at this point would probably delay both the first session with the planning board as well the opening of a marketing campaign.
While the Chamonix units will be restricted in terms of appreciation and residence, those restrictions will be different than those seen at other for-sale properties in town.
Instead of a strict appreciation cap — tied to the Denver-Boulder Consumer Price Index gauge of inflation — Chamonix homes will have their appreciation tied to the area median income.
Family size won’t be restricted. That means, for instance, that a couple planning a family can put their names in the lottery for a three-bedroom unit. That couple won’t have to look for a bigger place if they have children.
Buyers also can’t own other real estate at the time of closing on a Chamonix unit. People who already own homes must sell those units, or put them under a deed restriction, before closing the deal on a new home. The Chamonix homes must be the buyers’ primary residence.
Buyers must also work, on average, 30 hours per week in Eagle County.
That part of the restriction has drawn some criticism. The idea, council members said, is due to how fluid workplaces can be. For instance, an X-ray technician could end up working for substantial amounts of time anywhere between Vail and Eagle.
Ruther told the council that participation has declined in the town’s lottery system for its existing units. That system uses points based on employment and length of residence in Vail, among other factors.
Ruther said there used to be 70 or more applicants in the town’s annual lottery. As people have grown to understand the system, there are now just 20 to 30 applicants per year.
The Chamonix lottery — which wasn’t finalized Tuesday — would be more simple. Ruther said the lottery would be open to anyone who qualifies for a mortgage on a unit and meets the residency and employment requirements. Length of residence in town will no longer be a factor.
“You’d get one ticket and one chance whether you’ve lived here two years or 50 years,” Ruther said.
Given that this discussion took place after 10 p.m., and during a busy tourist period, Bruno urged delaying final action until the public could weigh in. That should come at the Jan. 3 meeting.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.