Does Solaris victory change Vail? |

Does Solaris victory change Vail?

VAIL ” The people have spoken, and they want Solaris.

Construction on the condo-movie theater-bowling alley complex where the Crossroads building now stands is supposed to start after next ski season. But the wider implications of the vote on the future of Vail are a matter of interpretation.

Leading opponents of Solaris, many of whom are longtime Vail residents, framed the vote as a referendum on controlled growth vs. overdevelopment. But supporters say the landslide victory won’t have implications beyond the Crossroads site.

Bob McNichols, a local developer who is building One Willow Bridge Road condo-timeshare project across the street from Solaris, said it won’t set a precedent for larger buildings.

“We already have larger buildings,” he said.

He said the vote does show the need for the town’s government to update its long-range plans and building rules. Solaris was built under a special development district, which allows for a bigger buildings in exchange for commensurate “public benefits.”

Councilman Mark Gordon said the results of the vote won’t change the way he makes decisions behind the council table.

“Every redevelopment has to be weighed on its own merits,” said Gordon, a supporter of the project. “I don’t think there’s a desire on my part just to make big buildings because we think big buildings are the right thing.”

Solaris developer Peter Knobel concurred. “I don’t think it changes things either way,” he said. “I think that the town has to look at every project on an individual basis.”

And Knobel said he doesn’t think developers with good projects will be scared off from Vail after seeing that Knobel had to go through an election to get his building constructed.

“It’s the nature of the business,” he said.

Vail, now almost 45 years old, is in the midst of $1 billion of development by Vail Resorts, the town and private developers in what is dubbed “Vail’s New Dawn.” Elaine Kelton, an opponent of the Solaris proposal, said buildings will get bigger in Vail.

“I was sorry we had fewer people who were concerned about the size and precedent that will be set,” she said.

Opponents said the building, which is 99.9 feet tall, would hurt the small-scale village feel of the resort town.

Tom Steinberg, a leading Solaris opponent and a Vail resident for more than 40 years, said the vote sets Vail on the path to urbanization. He said he’s talked to several second-home owners, whom he didn’t name, who are moving away because of the vote.

Still, Steinberg said the decision won’t profoundly affect old residents of Vail.

“It’s you young people that are going to pay the price,” he said

Joe Staufer, a Solaris opponent who arrived in Vail in 1963, said the “old guard” will still support certain issues and voice objections to others in the arena of town government.

“We’re not dead yet,” he said.

Gordon said the vote shows a transition for the town of Vail. He called it the “old power structure” giving way to the “new power structure.”

“They are no longer the decision makers,” Gordon said. “They are no longer in touch with what the majority of the town wants, but that doesn’t make them irrelevant.”

Gordon said most of the Town Council are members of the middle class.

“We’re not big landlords or big bosses or retirees,” he said.

Kelton said Knobel’s campaign, which she called well-orchestrated, well-marketed and well-funded, changed politics in Vail. Steinberg said Vail has entered “New York-style, manipulated, controlled” politics.

But McNichols said Knobel was simply on the right side of the debate.

“Politics usually sort out what the right side of the issue is,” he said. “He didn’t come in and change Vail politics. The issues were well presented. He had a better case. (The other side’s) case was based on demagoguery.”

In Tuesday’s election, 1,110 voted in favor of the project and 467 voted against the project. The building, which includes condos, a movie theater, a bowling alley, stores, restaurants and a public plaza/ice rink, is supposed to be completed in 2009.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

Vail, Colorado

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