West Vail master plan is nearly completed | VailDaily.com

West Vail master plan is nearly completed

Plan would clear the way for redeveloping the aging area

This artist’s drawing envisions one option for the West Vail commercial area.
Town of Vail/Courtesy photo

West Vail needs an update, from the commercial area to its neighborhoods. Town officials are looking into ways to do just that.

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday got an in-depth look at a new master plan for the area. That plan would be a guideline for future development in the area and would require participation by the current, or future, property owners.

That participation, or the lack of it, worries council member Brian Stockmar.

“Not putting (those owners) at the table creates a very difficult process,” Stockmar said.

Vail Community Development Director Matt Gennett said several of those landowners have been contacted. The owners of the West Vail Mall are “very excited” about the possible changes, he added.

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Common goals

Consultants Gabby Voeller and Ellie Wachtel, of the SE Group, presented council members with a trio of ideas for the commercial area. Those ideas ranged from just a little fiddling to an extreme makeover of the area. All those ideas, though, had a few things in common:

  • Making the area more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Updating and replacing structures built mostly in the early 1970s.
  • Adding as much deed-restricted housing as possible.
  • Ensuring new structures are built to, or beyond, current town sustainability standards.

In the neighborhoods, the consultants recommend changing zoning to accommodate more housing. That’s not possible now due to long-outdated zoning for the area. The plan also envisions putting 90% of all housing units within a five-minute walk of a transit stop.

The ideas for new housing would also limit the number of units available for short-term rentals.

Stockmar said limiting those uses is “incredibly complex” legally, but Gennett said the town has the ability to regulate short-term rentals. Voeller said that regulation could be done with a combination of zoning and property tax classifications.

West Vail until 1986 was in Eagle County, not the town of Vail, and the zoning imposed on the area then doesn’t match what exists, or what could change.

Zoning first

Gennett said the zoning changes could be the first step in the master plan process once it’s approved by the council. That could happen as soon as next month.

In addition to creating conditions that favor redeveloping the buildings, the plan also envisions a transit hub that would link the town and county bus systems, provide electric vehicle charging and other amenities.

The plan also envisions changes to North Frontage Road to both ease pedestrian and bicycle movement and make the commercial area more easily accessible to motorists. One idea envisions a kind of “road diet,” with a median strip in the area with left turn pockets to enter the commercial area.

The plan also includes some sort of Interstate 70 crossing, although Voeller acknowledged that idea will depend on future funding.

Council member Kevin Foley said that crossing is “a key” to creating a more cohesive neighborhood.

After its recent approval by the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission — following a number of long meetings — Gennett said the plan is “99% there” regarding its details.

“I think (planning board members) did a good job,” Mayor Dave Chapin said. Noting that the plan has been a town priority for some time, “I’m excited we’re at a point of possible approval.”

The study area

The study area is approximately 262 acres and bordered by West Gore Creek Drive to the south, Cortina Lane and Garmisch Drive to the north, Buffehr Creek Road to the east, and Arosa Drive to the west. The project area was determined by town staff, the consultant team and Council. The plan also takes into consideration the connections from West Vail to local destinations outside of the project area and West Vail’s role within the town.

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