Key Vail lot for sale
What it won’t be, if the town succeeds in buying it for a proposed $2.6 million, is open space – no matter how prettily the wildflowers bloom on the hillside lot just north of the West Vail roundabout and Wendy’s.
“The town is not buying it as an open-space acquisition,” Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin said Monday of the proposed sales agreement that will be considered by the Vail Town Council tonight.
“That does not preclude a pocket park, depending on what goes on it, but it will be used for some future need of the town,” McLaurin said. “We are not buying it for open space.”
It has taken more than six years for town officials to persuade local businessman Hud Wirth to part with the parcel. If the sale is finalized, McLaurin said, the parcel could be the town’s as early as August.
“It is the largest undeveloped parcel left in Vail, and I think it is too important of an asset for the town not try to acquire it,” said McLaurin. “It is strategically very important parcel. In my judgment, it ought to be owned by the town of Vail.”
First comes the sale, then come the plans, said Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz.
“I don’t think we know what will go on it, yet,” he said. “We believe it is a very important piece of real estate that might offer us a number of opportunities.
Kurz said the council has discussed building a West Vail Fire Station, a need identified in three fire service studies since 1974, as well as affordable housing – a need as old as Vail.
“I think it is important at this point to say that we are not buying it for a specific reason, but to secure it for the long-range use of the town,” Kurz said.
Vail Fire Chief John Gulick welcomes the news of an impending sales agreement. He has been lobbying for a third town fire station in West Vail for 21 years – with one eye never wavering far from the Hud Wirth property.
“I know there is no human outcry for a third fire station. That’s because we haven’t lost any buildings or lives (in West Vail) yet,” he said of the need for a third fire station in an area where most of Vail’s year-round residents live. “We are our own worst enemy because we do our jobs well.”
According to the fire service studies – done in 1974, 1990 and again 1997 – fire coverage in West Vail is lacking somewhat because of its distance from the Main Vail Fire Station. On snowy days, response times to homes in West Vail can be as long as 12 minutes. Three minutes is considered ideal, especially in medical emergencies, Gulick said. Homes and businesses in East Vail, Vail Village and Lionshead are usually reached within less than five minutes.
Over the years, the town has explored other West Vail properties for a third fire station, but for a variety of reasons plans never gave way to bricks, Gulick said.
The Hud Wirth property, he said “is in an ideal location” not just for West Vail but for all of the Vail community.
“It’s right next to the interstate and the frontage road we can be anywhere in no time,” he said.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at email@example.com