Evergreen Lodge redevelopment in Vail hits roadblock in approval
Vail Town Council will hear Vail International's appeal on Jan. 3
After months of back-and-forth between the town, developers and residents, Vail’s Planning and Environment Commission recommended approval of the proposal for the redevelopment of Evergreen Lodge in Vail at its Nov. 14 meeting.
The recommended approval was appealed three weeks later, however, by the adjacent property, Vail International Condominium Owners Association. In the appeal, Vail International cited concerns over the scale and size of the project, safety concerns as well as the impact on the area in terms of traffic, congestion and the environment.
Now, the Vail Town Council will hold a hearing for the appeal on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The existing Evergreen Lodge was constructed in 1974. The property is located on the edge of Lionshead right next to the Vail Health Hospital and Vail Municipal Building. While minor improvements have been made to the complex over the years, it remains largely as constructed in the 1970s, despite several previous plans for redevelopment that never materialized.
Currently, the property contains 128 accommodation units, 19 dwelling units that are part of its short-term rentals program, eating and drinking establishments, conference space and hotel retail space. It is currently owned by HCT Development, which is part of the Solaris Group.
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The town of Vail received the first application for the lodge’s redevelopment on Feb. 18, 2022. During the subsequent months, the commission, town staff and residents provided significant input on the plan over the course of four PEC meetings. And on Oct. 24, the developer brought forth a revised plan, which with some changes was the plan approved by the commission on Nov. 14, 2022.
The redevelopment plan approved will allow the existing Evergreen Lodge to be demolished and replaced by “The Evergreen.” The plan approved has the following components:
- 109 residential condominiums (ranging from one- to four-bedroom units)
- A minimum of 100 attached accommodation units
- A roofing structure with flat and sloped roofs, planted roofscapes and amenities as well as a solar array
- Amenities such as a lobby with a front desk and concierge, workout facilities and an exterior pool, hot tubs and fire pits
- Space for an eating and drinking establishment
- Space for a retail shop
- 20 on-site employee housing units
The plan was recommended for approval by the commission in a split 4-3 vote — with commissioners Bill Jensen, Bobby Lipnick, Reid Phillips and John Rediker approving and Karen Perez, Henry Pratt, Brian Judge dissenting. The main argument among those who dissented was that while the plan had come a long way, it still did not yet meet criteria related to the mass and scale of the building.
“I think The Evergreen Lodge needs to be redeveloped, I’m in support of redevelopment, but I don’t think we’re there yet to meet the criteria,” Perez said. “Part of that criteria is mass and scale … it needs some more work to fit into the community and provide a transition between the hospital and the single-family homes across the street and the library, to make it feel more like a better part of this town.”
On Dec. 6, the town’s community development department received an appeal of this approval from the Vail International Condominium Owners Association. The appeal holds that the project as currently proposed by the developer and recommended for approval by the PEC would “substantially adversely affect the VIC owners.”
“VIC would be aggrieved by the proposed development if it is permitted to go forward in its present form, by the massive scale and scope of the proposed development, the likely negative environmental effects (particularly the effects on Middle Creek), the safety hazards posed by the proximity of the northeast portion of the proposed development to the Vail Health helipad, by the strain on employee housing, by significantly increased traffic and congestion, and by the likelihood that the proposed development would not meaningfully contribute to ‘live’ beds,” the appeal reads.
According to a staff memo, the appeal was determined to have standing by Matt Gennett, Vail’s development director, so the Vail Town Council will hear its appeal on Jan. 3.
Ongoing community concerns
Throughout the PEC hearing process, a number of residents have expressed concerns with the redevelopment application, many of which are also called out in the Vail International appeal.
For the plan that was recommended for approval, emails and letters from residents and community members cited ongoing concerns around the overall size and design of the property, the potential danger to the adjacent helicopter pad at Vail Health as well as that the site had an insufficient number of employee housing units.
Several letters and emails received by the commission gave reference to the Evergreen Lodge’s current appearance. Harry Frampton, in a Nov. 9 email, called it a “dump,” citing the application would “be a vast improvement.”
Susie Tjossem, in a Nov. 1 email, said the “redevelopment of the Evergreen is long overdue; it is a front and center eyesore,” adding that it would have a “significant upside for the town in both image and positive economic factors.”
However, several community members still expressed concerns over the size of the project. At the core of many of these was an opinion that the plan was oversized for the space it occupies.
On behalf of the Vail International Condominium Owners Association, Attorney Rohn Robbins wrote an email to the commissioners on Nov. 8 citing specific concerns with its roof slopes, windows, aspects as well as the overall architecture and massing. Robbins’ email called the overall structure and design “industrial-looking,” and out of line with the town’s architectural direction.
Ronald Snow, a nearby property owner in Vail, wrote in a Dec. 5 email, that the “plan is greatly oversized for the site” and “architecturally in conflict with the residential character of the neighborhood.”
At the Nov. 14 meeting, resident Merv Lapin questioned whether, due to its size, it could be split into multiple buildings.
Commissioner Lipnick, on the flip side, expressed that a lot had been done to decrease the mass and scale throughout the process, including the addition of some sloped roofs in the approved plan. Several commissioners emphasized that there was already a precedent of large buildings in the area.
“There’s no doubt, it’s still a big building, but my interpretation of the Lionshead (Redevelopment Master Plan) is that is what the community wanted,” Jenson said. “I also see this as central to Vail and I see Vail continuing to evolve and all our mass is in the core, and this is part of the core.”
Commissioner Phillips said that some of the remaining concerns would be addressed as the plan faces the town’s Design Review Board in the future.
Part of the community members’ concerns with the building’s scale had to do with its height and proximity to the Vail Health helicopter pad.
“Parts of the Evergreen are built in the flight path of the medical helicopter takeoff and landing site. This is my major safety concern,” wrote Lapin in a Nov. 10 email to the commissioners.
“Now the already tenuous risk profile of tall structures near the elevated landing pad will further affect the risk profile of helicopter operations if approved. Gusty winds are the norm for Vail during all seasons, especially during the winter. All structures near the landing area will impact the local swirling wind pattern for landing and departing helicopters due to the Venturi Effect of funneling wind through constrained spaces between structures,” wrote Gary Dahlen, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force and Vail property owner, in a Nov. 13 email.
In its revised plan submitted in October, the developer addresses this, stating that there were “coordinated development” agreements established in 2017 between Vail Health and Evergreen Lodge for both to be developed.
In 2017, when Vail Health underwent its major redevelopment, there was a land exchange between the two parties that allowed not only for the hospital’s expansion but also the future redevelopment of the Evergreen Lodge. These agreements included the redevelopment as contemplated in its plans this year as well as a “restricted covenant which limits any improvements above defined elevations,” according to the plan.
Tom Braun spoke on behalf of Vail Health at the November PEC meeting and said that the plans are compliant with the regulations for the helipad flight path, and the design-related element agreements reached in 2017.
“First and foremost among those was the easement that limited the height of the buildings on The Evergreen to confirm to the FATO, flight arrival and takeoff, from the helipad,” Braun said. “As the helicopter leaves the pad, it goes up at an angle and what we worked on with The Evergreen was we defined a ceiling, below which the buildings must be located, they cannot penetrate that building. I think they’re 5 to 6 feet below that maximum at the highest point.”
Vail Town Code requires that 10% of the gross residential floor area be allocated as employee housing units, 50% of which are required to be on site.
For The Evergreen plan proposed on Nov. 14, the requirement per code is that 13,687 square feet would need to be allocated for this purpose. The Evergreen’s proposal of 20 onsite units totaled over 14,000 square feet. This was seen as an improvement from previous iterations of the plan as they contemplated fulfilling this requirement in a combination of on- and off-site housing units.
In expressing her support for approval, Vail resident and business owner Kim Fuller said this on-site housing would benefit the community.
“Every net new bed for the workforce in this town makes a difference and I have personally felt that difference,” she said. “This project’s on-site housing is thoughtful, sustainable and will provide support to the local workforce, just like the support I received as a young and hard-working resident here.”
However, some community members still saw this as insufficient.
In an email sent to commissioners on Nov. 13, Snow said the town’s current requirements fall short.
“Requiring housing for only 20% is an unbelievable shortfall. Where will the other 80% go? Will the Town provide housing for another 100 Evergreen employees?” posed Snow in his email. “The Evergreen proposed development will be a very profitable project, which pay for the impacts to the Town and neighborhood by building employee housing units for Evergreen employees.”
Ultimately, however, this bore no impact on the recommended approval of the plan.
“Regardless of what you think in terms of numbers, what the moral obligation is to provide housing, we comply with code 100% on our housing,” said Dominic Mauriello, principal of Mauriello Planning Group, which is representing HCT, at the Nov. 14 meeting.