Vail Design Review Board OKs East Vail project changes

Move comes as Vail Town Council seeks ways to stop the project near the I-70 East Vail exit

Representatives of OZ Architecture presented this depiction of the north side of apartments at an East Vail workforce housing site.
Town of Vail, OZ Archtecture/Courtesy photo

The Vail Design Review Board Wednesday approved a handful of changes to the East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision, a project better known as Booth Heights.

“We’re approving what’s been put in front of us,” Board member Erin Iba said, adding that the current board was weighing in on changes to a project approved in 2019 by a previous board. Iba noted that she hears resident comments about the project nearly every day while walking her dog, but noted that the board Wednesday was acting only in regard to town design standards.

While approval of the measure passed by a 3-1 vote, member Kathryn Middleton abstained, citing her own opposition to the project, and noting that the project seems unpopular in the community.

The changes came after Denver-based OZ Architecture took over the project for Vail Resorts, which is now the project developer.

The size of the project remains — roughly 160 beds of rental workforce housing along with deed-restricted and free-market townhomes on a 5.4-acre site just north of the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange. But some design elements have changed.

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The apartments have been broken into three buildings connected via breezeways. The new plan also adds more landscaping, including around the berms to the north of the parcel. The new plan also includes landscaping on the south side, but that land is in Colorado Department of Transportation right of way, and the plan must be approved by that agency.

The plan also now includes provisions for electric vehicle charging at the apartments.

Changes also include moving the proposed town bus stop, as well as designing the parking lot and driveway so fire trucks can enter more easily and turn around.

Even with Wednesday’s approval, there’s still more to be done before construction can begin.

In an email, Vail Community Development Department Director Matt Gennett wrote that next steps include applying for a building permit. That requires submitting plans, materials and fees.

“Given the amount of review time required for a project of this size and scope, and the conditions of approval that must be met prior to issuance of a building permit, we cannot accurately or reasonably predict when a building permit might be issued,” Gennett wrote.

The Design Review Board action comes as the Vail Town Council is working to avoid building on the site.

The Council last week sent a letter to Vail Resorts outlining several alternatives to building housing on the East Vail site. The Council has also started the process to possibly acquire the site via condemnation.

Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler told Council members Tuesday that Vail Resorts has replied to the letter, indicating the company is reviewing the town’s proposals.

The Council Tuesday also voted to begin the process of rezoning a parcel just west of the Middle Creek Village apartments that could also be used for workforce housing.

Mayor Kim Langmaid said at that meeting that the Council is “committed to ongoing collaboration with our partners at Vail Resorts,” something she noted has been “going on for decades.” Langmaid added she’s heard from community members offering financial help for the town to perhaps buy the parcel for preservation.

How they voted

Yes: Erin Iba, Peter Cope, Kit Austin.

Abstaining: Kathryn Middleton.

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