Height and bulk key to Crossroads
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 – might rest 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 is gathering petitions to hold a townwide vote on the issue.
Supporters of Crossroads say it will provide activities for families and young people in Vail and bring vitality back to the town. Opponents say that, while they want the aging building to be redeveloped and welcome the amenities that it would bring, the current plan is too tall, too big, doesn’t follow long-standing development plans for Vail and doesn’t have consensus support in the community.Petition committee member Elaine Kelton said the group already has the 380 signatures that are required to force reconsideration. But they are gathering 50 to 100 more signatures in case some signatures are ruled invalid, she said.”You always need a buffer zone,” she said.Here are some arguments about the proposal, and some facts:
The building ranges in height from 35 feet tall 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 87.5 feet. Along Meadow Drive, the building would be 56 feet tall.
Here are some heights of the tallest points of some other large buildings near Crossroads: 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.These numbers were provided by the town of Vail’s Community Development Department.Opponents say the Crossroads building would set a precedent for larger buildings throughout Vail. Kelton said she has already seen the effect of the precedent in the proposal for the redevelopment of the Roost Lodge in West Vail. Residents in West Vail objected to the size of the hotel-condo proposal.This is an immediate effect even before the execution of Crossroads, she said.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.Petitioner Andy Wiessner said the Solaris plan doesnt have to be changed drastically.We think it should be downsized a little bit, he said. Wed just like to see it scaled down a little.The building wont set a precedent for height for other buildings, said Dominic Mauriello, a planner for the developer. Also, the 99.9-foot-tall statistic isnt representative of the entire buildings height, Mauriello said.Youre picking a point at the tip of the peak on the building, he said. The eaves are 20 feet lower than that.Mauriello said Knobel wont take a floor off the proposed building. 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. Thats taller than the 11-foot floor-to-floor heights used for the Tivoli Lodge and Manor Vail. When Vails long-range plan was adopted in 1990, the conventional floor-to-floor height was 9 feet.
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 Kelton 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.
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.Wiessner 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.”
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.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado