Vail Resorts’ East Vail property re-zoned, but building on the site will be difficult | VailDaily.com

Vail Resorts’ East Vail property re-zoned, but building on the site will be difficult

Vail Resorts on Tuesday, Oct. 3 received town of Vail approval to split this piece of company-owned property near the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange. The eastern parcel is dedicated open space. The western portion can be used for deed restricted housing.

VAIL — The Vail Town Council's Tuesday, Oct. 3, decision to rezone a 23.3-acre parcel in East Vail took a lot of time, but putting housing on part of that land will require even more time and effort.

The 5-2 vote, with council members Kim Langmaid and Jen Mason dissenting, split the parcel into two sections, both still owned by Vail Resorts. The western portion, 5.4 acres, is now governed by Vail's housing zone district. That's one of the town's most restrictive in terms of planning oversight and limits building to only deed-restricted workforce housing. The eastern portion, 17.9 acres, is now governed by the town's natural area preservation zoning. That's also among the town's most restrictive land uses, allowing little more than trails.

During deliberations before the vote, council member Dick Cleveland said Vail Resorts "will have a very big mountain to climb" before any building can take place on the site.

But, Cleveland added, the resort company deserves the right to attempt to develop the land for workforce housing.

Vail Resorts is out of the business and will find a partner to actually build whatever is built on the site — if anything is built on the site.

Local architect Michael Hazard, who supported the rezoning request, said there will be a number of hurdles any developer would have to clear in order to build on the site.

Among those hurdles is the geography of the parcel. The land isn't flat, and portions may be in a rockfall zone. Any housing built on the site would have to account for slopes and potential rockfall. But homes and apartments have been built in non-flat areas. The Lions Ridge Apartments, the eastern half of the Timber Ridge apartment property, required rockfall retaining walls along with the 113 apartments there.

Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther wrote in an email that the town prohibits construction of multi-family housing — apartments, condos and townhomes — on property with slope grades of 40 percent or more. The eastern portion of the property has a number of slopes that steep. The portion dedicated to housing doesn't.

Negotiated standards

But that restriction is among only a few restrictions imposed by the housing zoning district. Those restrictions will come during negotiations between town officials and the developer.

That land-use classification was created to encourage the construction of workforce housing, Ruther wrote. Because of that, a developer proposes the standards for property in the housing district. Those standards must then be approved by the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission.

That means a developer and town officials work to determine site coverage, density and maximum height, among other criteria.

The town and developers also must agree on environmental protection requirements, and an environmental study must be done as part of the approval process.

Hazard said he believes that the town and whatever developer submits a plan will be able to come to an agreement on environmental effects, including impacts on wildlife.

Coexisting with sheep?

At Tuesday's meeting, most opponents of the rezoning proposal — most of whom live nearby — worried about the potential effects of building on property that currently is part of the winter range of a roughly 40-animal herd of bighorn sheep.

Opponents invited representatives of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society to speak. Representative Mark Zachary told the council that in the worst of winters, the property rezoned for housing is where the animals go.

Langmaid, who has an educational background in environmental science, said she believes building on the site will cause the extinction of the herd.

After the meeting, Hazard said he believes a project can integrate housing with wildlife and the site's topography. And, while some opponents questioned whether anything can be built on the site — resident Bill Egger called the property "unbuildable" — Hazard said the right developer could find a solution.

"It's going to take a very talented developer with a lot of conviction," Hazard said.

That applies not just to building, but to a "web" of partners willing to make the project work financially. There's a difference between building a ski-in, ski-out residence on Vail's Rockledge Road and building workforce housing, Hazard said.

"It's going to be tough," Hazard said. "We need a good, creative team to come together and exceed everyone's expectations."

That process starts the day Vail Resorts picks a developer for the property.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

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Four facts

• A 23.3-acre parcel north of the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange has been rezoned by the town of Vail.

• The entire parcel was previously zoned for two-family residential.

• Rezoning splits the parcel into 5.4 acres for deed-restricted housing and 17.9 acres for natural area preservation.

• Vail Resorts is expected to find a developer for workforce housing on the site.

Sources: Vail Resorts, Town of Vail