Vail officials continue work on West Vail plan
The idea is to spur new development, invigorating the area
West Vail hasn’t changed much since the 1980s. Changes are going to require both town action and property owners willing to act.
The first part of that equation will come from a master plan now being developed by a team of consultants. That team Tuesday presented the Vail Town Council with different scenarios for planning the area’s future.
Master plans don’t have the force of law. No property owner has to make changes just because a town plan describes a situation. What those plans do is create guiding philosophies for future development. That’s important in West Vail, which is a tangle of old zoning and current uses that don’t conform to that zoning.
The consultant team is currently looking at three elements of the area: commercial, residential and transportation.
The commercial zone presents most of the opportunity for the future of the area, with a good bit of land, much of which is currently dedicated to parking.
Under the second of the three scenarios presented to council, the middle path calls for a shared parking structure for roughly 700 vehicles, creating a new, large grocery store on the current City Market site — while finding another use for the existing Safeway store — and adding as many as 350 new housing units on the property.
All scenarios envision improved transportation in and out of the area in the form of better bike and pedestrian access to the area, along with improved transit connections for both the town and county bus systems.
All these improvements come with a couple of big questions: Will the current property owners join in, and how can the improvements be financed?
The first question is ultimately up to those who own the three main parcels in the commercial core — aside from Vail Commons, which the town owns.
As development comes, “It’s important for the town to have a leadership role in potentially bringing together interested parties,” consultant Brian Duffy said.
Duffy said the town has options to help pay for improvements including creating special districts, or creating a district subject to “tax increment financing.” That system is currently in place in Lionshead. The system allows the town to keep property tax collections from increased property values in newly-developed areas. That money can then be used to fund improvements.
While many questions still need to be answered, councilmember Jenn Bruno said she’d like the town to start work on zoning the area to categories that reflect current and potential future conditions.
Councilmember Jen Mason agreed, adding that the town can re-zone areas to ensure any new housing is used for local residents, not second-home owners.
“I’d love to redevelop (the area), but I don’t know how it’s going to happen,” Mason said.
Mayor Dave Chapin also agreed that re-zoning is a good first step, followed by meeting with property owners in the commercial zone.
“Let’s revitalize that area,” he said.
The council and consultants will continue to work on the plan in the coming months.
12.8 acres: Size of West Vail commercial zone study area
150,000: Approximate retail square footage
46: Housing units — excluding the 53 units at Vail Commons
800: Approximate current parking spaces