Vail Town Council overturns design board decision on Residences at Main Vail
Move means workforce housing project has town approval
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday cleared the way for the Residences at Main Vail workforce housing project.
The council overturned a July 7 Vail Design Review Board rejection of the plan. Council members voted 5-2 to overturn that decision. Council members Brian Stockmar and Kevin Foley voted against the motion to overturn the decision. The move completes the town approval process.
The design board decision was appealed by the town of Vail, the owner of the project. Triumph Development, which will build the estimated $24.4 million project, represented the town during Tuesday’s hearing.
Triumph representatives Michael O’Connor and Mike Foster laid out the project’s history and its path through the town’s approval process.
The Vail Planning and Environmental Commission on May 10 approved the plan by a 6-1 margin. The next step in the process was working on the building’s design with the Design Review Board, detailing changes made over the course of three meetings.
Design board members Tuesday defended their decision to reject the plan.
Board chairman Doug Cahill told council members that he and other board members see their job as to make everything they see a “good-looking, beautiful project.”
Cahill said the town needs to fix the process that often starts with a basic sketch and then evolves as the board looks at it.
A vision, not a box
“We need to fix the process … and not start with a box, but with a vision,” Cahill said.
Other board members asserted that the plan, which sits just north and west of the main Vail Interstate 70 interchange, doesn’t meet the Vail brand.
Several residents agreed that the design isn’t up to what the town’s standards should be.
Resident Jim Lamont urged the council to help the design board come to a “communal decision” that would benefit the entire town.
Johannes Faessler agreed that the design review board needs to evolve, but in a different way.
Faessler, owner of the Sonnenalp, rebuilt the Solar Vail apartments, which opened in 2019. That building is just west of the proposed Residences at Main Vail site, near Red Sandstone Elementary School.
Faessler said the design board is in a “non-win” situation when it comes to workforce housing.
“The (town’s) guidelines don’t really work for employee housing,” Faessler said. Solar Vail “is not the most beautiful thing I could imagine … but that’s the best that was possible.”
Faessler encouraged the council to overturn the design board’s decision, then meet with the design board to talk about how the town’s design guidelines can be adjusted to accommodate workforce housing.
While Council members had a narrow decision to make, some commenters mentioned the town’s need for workforce housing.
Matt Morgan, owner of Vail’s Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard restaurants, acknowledged that the town needs “great projects,” whether on Forest Road or the frontage road. But, he added, Sweet Basil this week will stop opening for lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday due to staffing shortages. The restaurant may stop lunch service altogether, Morgan said.
During the discussion, both residents and design board members claimed the board was being disrespected by council members and others.
Mayor Dave Chapin, attending remotely while Mayor Pro Tem Kim Langmaid ran the meeting, said respect runs two ways.
“We don’t need to go there,” Chapin said, adding that he voted to appoint all the current design board members and would again.
But, he added, watching a recording of the July 7 meeting, he “heard a lot of things that weren’t under the purview of this board.”
Langmaid said she had also watched the recordings of that meeting. While the building’s current design may not be “all the way there,” she added that the town could perhaps look again at the budget to try to improve its appearance.
Stockmar said while he has supported construction of housing on the site just east of the Middle Creek Village apartments, he backed the design board’s decision.
Stockmar said he doesn’t believe that the town’s design requirements were met, even as the building design evolved. The current design is “essentially the same” as initial drawings, he said.
Both Langmaid and Council member Jen Mason said they hoped that further design improvements would be made as the project moves nearer to construction.
$24.4 million: Estimated cost of the Residences at Main Vail housing project
72: Total units
82: Parking spaces
144: Minimum number of beds for workers