Judge upholds Eagle County’s approval for conversion of EagleVail building into workforce housing

The owners of the Warner Professional Building in EagleVail have been granted a two-year extension of a 2019 approval to turn the building from office space to housing.
Pam Boyd/Vail Daily archive

Eagle County District Court Judge Russell Granger ruled this week that the Eagle County Board of Commissioners “neither acted arbitrarily nor misapplied the law” in approving a proposal to convert an EagleVail office building into a workforce housing complex.

In August of 2019, the county commissioners approved a plan from developer Robert Warner to convert his 42-year-old, 10,000-square-foot  Warner Professional Building into a shared living facility. In December of last year, EagleVail residents Darlene Daugherty and Karl Krueger filed a suit in Eagle County District Court challenging the county’s decision.

Daugherty and Krueger’s lawsuit claimed that the project, which was called a “boarding house” in county application materials, was not a defined use in county land-use documents or EagleVail rules, that an inappropriate staff member was charged with reviewing the proposal and that the public hearing for the application was not properly noticed.

Granger dismissed all three claims.

“The decision is hopefully the final word in our five-year long effort to bring more affordable housing options into EagleVail,” said developer Robert Warner following the court announcement on July 28.  “From the beginning, we preferred to work with the community rather than to fight with them. We think the majority of the community recognizes the benefits of our boarding house project over a more intensive commercial use, like a gas station or a restaurant.”

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Warner said the decision also validated the EagleVail Property Owners Association Board of Directors’ decision not to file a lawsuit and to honor the commissioners’ decision.

“The plaintiffs were asking the judge to overturn a 14-month review process,” noted Eagle County Attorney Bryon Treu.  “We are pleased with the decision and hopeful the project can provide some much need housing in the valley.”

Judge’s ruling

Judge Granger ruled the evidence showed that the property in question is a commercial lot and that county regulations allow for residential purposes on commercial lots. Additionally, the judge said that a boarding house use is “permitted to operate on a commercial lot if approved by special review.”

The judge also ruled that the board did not exceed its jurisdiction or abuse its discretion with regard to the planners assigned to the project or fail to properly notice the public hearing. Granger stated that the plaintiffs did not claim that they failed to attend the hearing nor were they precluded from providing comments because of a lack of adequate notice.

“The record supports that the board did not err in holding the hearing and finding public notice was properly provided,” Granger stated.

What’s next

“Projects like ours are important to maintaining a healthy community,” Warner noted. “The events of the last several months further demonstrate the wisdom of having the flexibility to repurpose old office space into housing. We appreciate Eagle County’s support for our project and look forward to beginning construction to convert the building into the housing we proposed.”

In an interview Friday, Warner also noted that the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for real estate projects in general and his proposal specifically.

 Today, there is a large “For Sale” sign posted at the property.

“We may still build it or we may sell it as a boarding house or other use. Time will tell,” said Warner. “Unfortunately, we lost a year and COVID is around now and there is a lot of uncertainty around now.”

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