Logic vs. Middle Creek comes up short | VailDaily.com

Logic vs. Middle Creek comes up short

Don Rogers

This is what the opponents, the Vail Village Homeowners Association and home owners at Spraddle Creek, call “nearly as tall” as the tower and “monstrous.” They exaggerate, of course.

Their opposition comes up short of rationality at just about every point. The proposal for Middle Creek is the right size at the right place at the right time. It’s obvious, even painfully so.

But this is Vail, a place where the idea of a roundabout was cause for bitter warring before the first one was built. Similarly, Ford Park, the amphitheater, Dobson Ice Arena – all were nearly killed by naysayers. Only the leadership’s strength of purpose and vision carried each through, and in each case Vail as a community was vastly better off.

Middle Creek is one of Vail’s big gut checks in middle age. Will the leadership quail in the face of influential but limited opposition or bravely do the right thing and build these much-needed apartments for “regular” workers?

Will Vail, at a crossroads and manifest change in eras with the passing of Pete Seibert, make the moves that keep the community progressing? Or is this finally the stage where the town, eyes focused backward, firmly sets on the course of decline so common in the life cycle of resort communities?

Middle Creek, perhaps even more symbolically than the question of a conference center headed for a vote in November, will show the course Vail takes from here.

The political arm of the homeowners association shrewdly is hitting the project at a weak point in the gantlet to approval. Vail being Vail, two advisory bodies push and tug at projects seemingly forever in the best of times. With this project, the efforts of the Design and Review Board and the Planning and Environmental Commission have rather hilariously countered the other – The DRB, for example, was all for low-lying buildings spread out along the 6 buildable acres of the 26-acre property. The PEC said no, no, no – compress the footprint of the building to 2 acres and go taller. Imagine if you are the poor sap trying to design and build the units?

The homeowners association, now applying heat at this juncture, a year into the process, apparently sees an opportunity to effectively kill the project with the fiat of endless delays if it can’t frustrate the developer into quitting the effort. And indeed, the DRB last week punted its role to a third party consultant, in a sad sign of a spine suddenly gone missing.

Today, at 2 p.m., the PEC gets its chance to show its timber. The homeowners association and the town Housing Authority are each trying to muster interested parties to show up for the meeting at which the PEC will be asked to approve or recommend the project be rejected.

Never mind that the arguments are more appropriately aired with this force at the beginning of the process a year ago or later, at the Town Council level – the DRB and PEC are supposed to concern themselves with technicalities, not yes or no to the project itself.

But no, we’ll hear instead the project is too big. It’s not, and it’s been proposed at this size or larger for the better part of two years – without complaints.

Maybe we’ll hear, as Spraddle Creek homeowner George Gillett incredibly insisted a week ago, that there is no need for this type of affordable housing anymore. That’s a rather jaw-dropping assertion, considering every survey in the past 15 years has placed this near the top of Vail’s needs, and as recently as a year ago Vail Resorts officials called this Vail’s top need.

I hope we don’t hear more Vail Resorts commentary that Middle Creek is too big and too dense a project for the site. I’m frankly embarrassed for them when their unsuccessful bid to build Middle Creek contained more units and beds than this one. Now Coughlin and Co.’s smaller-scale project is too big? Who are they kidding? Yikes.

My favorite objection is a relatively secondary one: concern for the security of the new child-care facility, the $1 million tab for which the developer is picking up as well as building. Apparently being a couple of hundred feet closer to the main Vail I-70 interchange is a worry for the homeowners association. Funny, the child-care people – you know, the ones who actually would live with this new center – are all for the project, touching as the association’s concern for their well-being of course is.

Yes, it would be irresponsible of me not to mention the homeowners association’s careful point about being all for affordable housing (somewhere else in town), but the Middle Creek project should be much smaller, say, in the 40-unit arena instead of 146 units.

I understand that I’m not nearly as bright as the bigtime CEOs and such who populate this group, but even I recognize that a 40-unit complex is neither doable for the developer nor touches the shortage that Vail in fact has with affordable housing of this type.

I’m sorry Gillette might have competition for his rentals, and maybe he’ll even have to lower rents, what a calamity. I think Spraddle Creek is by far the larger scar on views in Vail than the Middle Creek complex would ever be, and the footprint of that housing for highfalutin’s up on the hillside is larger too. We’ve endured the ugliness of the tower at that site for decades, so a few more buildings in a town of buildings is not going to repel anyone, especially on the north side of the interstate. But that’s just common sense – something conspicuously lacking in the opposition to Middle Creek.

If the town has the courage to do the right thing and build while interest rates and construction costs are relatively low, we will see that none of the dire predictions will prove true, and the community will become that much better.

There is no better place, size or time for the Middle Creek Village than this. It would be a real shame to see Vail pass it up, especially with the poverty of the logic in the arguments against this plan.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-055, ext. 600, or at editor@vaildaily.com

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