Height and bulk key to Crossroads | VailDaily.com

Height and bulk key to Crossroads

Note: This article originally appeared on April 17. VAIL – Some say it will breathe life back into Vail. Others say it contradicts the town’s recipe for success. Now, the final say on Crossroads – like the Vail Village conference center before it – rests in voters’ hands.Developer Peter Knobel’s embattled building proposal, called Solaris, includes 69 condos, a three-screen movie theater, a 10-lane bowling alley, stores, restaurants and a public plaza with an ice rink.The Vail Town Council approved the proposal by a 4-3 vote on March 21, 19 months after the proposal was first submitted to the town. But a group of residents who think the proposal is too big has gathered enough petition signatures to hold a townwide vote on the issue. The vote is Tuesday.Here are some arguments about the proposal, and some facts:Just how high is it?The building ranges in height from 35 feet to 99.9 feet tall. That tallest point is measured from the Meadow Drive side of the building to the top of the peaked roof. The tallest point as measured from the frontage road would be 87.6 feet. Along Meadow Drive, the building would be 57 feet tall to its peak. The highest peak of the building is 111 feet higher in elevation than the public plaza below and to the south.Here are some maximum “official” heights of the tallest points of some other large buildings near Crossroads as measured by the town of Vail’s Community Development Department:• Four Seasons: 89 feet.• One Willow Bridge Road (under construction, across the street from Crossroads): 50 feet.• Vail Village Inn Phase III condominiums (next door to Crossroads): 79.2 feet.• Vail Plaza Hotel (under construction): tower is 99.75 feet tall; ridge is 77.25 feet tall.Opponents say the Crossroads building would set a precedent for larger buildings throughout Vail.The town staff, which recommended approval of the project, concurred that it would set a precedent. “Staff believes that the proposed height will set a new precedence as it will be taller than any building in town,” a Jan. 23 town memo on Crossroads said.But Dominic Mauriello, a planner for the developer, said Solaris won’t set a precedent for height. Also, the 99.9-foot-tall statistic isn’t representative of the entire building’s height, Mauriello said.”You’re picking a point at the tip of the peak on the building,” he said. “The eaves are 20 feet lower than that.”Vail has seen floor-to-floor heights progressively get taller over the years. Crossroads has 11.5-foot-tall floors, the same height that has been approved for Lionshead redevelopment. That’s taller than the 11-foot floor-to-floor heights used for the Tivoli Lodge and Manor Vail.When Vail’s long-range plan was adopted in 1990, the conventional floor-to-floor height was 9 feet.How bulky?Opponents also say the proposal is too bulky. The proposal would have 199,830 square feet of condo space, about four times what is allowed by conventional regulations – which many say are outdated. Knobel cites the above-ground space per acre of the proposal compared to two nearby projects under construction:• Crossroads: 131,441 square feet per acre.• Vail Plaza Hotel: 141,166 square feet per acre.• Four Seasons: 151,515 square feet per acre.But Elaine Kelton, an organizer of the petition drive, said approving those two other projects was a mistake.”What we need to do is address (Crossroads) because it will set a huge upzoning precedent for the town,” Kelton said.What’s an SDD?Crossroads is using a “special development district,” or SDD, which throws the building rules out the window. It can allow for extra height and size, but, in exchange, the developer must provide benefits to the community that equal the extra size he or she is getting.Other projects that have used the special district are:• Vail Plaza Hotel.• Four Seasons.• Manor Vail.• Austria Haus.• Tivoli Lodge.On Jan. 3, the Town Council said the project should proceed with the special development district process, instead of using conventional building rules.Andy Wiessner, another organizer of the petition drive, said the special district is an “end-run” around building rules. Special development districts should rarely be used, he said.”The town decided to use the SDD, but the problem with that is that then every building that goes up becomes a case-by-case project,” Wiessner said.Mauriello said the proposal would have never happened and will not happen without the special district.”There’s some security the town gets with the SDD,” Mauriello said. “They have control of looking at every aspect of the project including design and public benefits.”And without a special district?The allowed height is 38 feet, but the proposal is 99.9 feet tall at its highest point. The allowed amount of condos space is 46,051 square feet, but the amount proposed is 199,830 square feet.The developer says the underlying zoning is outdated, and was intended for buildings such as banks and the post office – services which have now been relocated out of Vail central, Mauriello said.The zoning hasn’t been updated in decades, while other areas’ building rules have been updated, Mauriello said.If the project is rejected by voters, “the project is dead” and the project may never happen, Knobel said in a mailing to Vail voters. Knobel said a new project would take years to design and get approvals for.”All of these things take time and money and there is no guarantee that a new project would be able to include the same public benefits or that it won’t be stopped by another referendum,” he wrote.While Knobel has said he will not reduce the size of the proposal, Wiessner said the Solaris plan doesn’t have to be changed drastically.”We think it should be downsized a little bit,” he said. “We’d just like to see it scaled down a little.”Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or estoner@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism