Middle Creek on the block again today
Regardless of the final vote – seven thumbs up or down – the proposed affordable housing project is all but destined to be heard by the Vail Town Council for a final review. And that’s where Vail’s most controversial project of this year, belongs, says Vail Local Housing Authority member Steve Lindstrom.
“That is the appropriate arena for most of the arguments we have heard so far,” he says. “That’s where they belong, instead of at the PEC level,” Lindstrom says.
The $23 million project – financed with $15 million in public subsidies – proposed by Denver-based Coughlin and Company, would be an alpine-style affordable housing complex on a 25-acre site just east of the Mountain Bell microwave tower, north of Vail’s main roundabout.
The PEC, as well as the Vail Design Review Board, have become venues for supporters and opponents to clash over the project – despite the fact these two boards don’t make political but planning decisions.
In the planning pipeline for more than one year, Middle Creek raised ire with some local residents and business owners, who have called it everything from “ugly” to “monstrous” to too big and in the wrong place.
“I don’t want it at the entrance of Vail,” Johannes Faessler, owner of the Sonnenalp Resort, told PEC commissioners last month. Faessler said a project of the proposed scale – two- to six-story high buildings – in this prominent location would be a detriment to the town.
Supporters of the projects say Vail has missed the boat on affordable housing and now needs to make up for it with Middle Creek.
As of 2002, deed-restricted for-sale as well as rental units in Vail numbered 350, providing housing for about 30 percent of Vail’s work force. A housing initiative conceived five years ago as “Common Ground” set the goal to provide 61 percent of Vail’s work force with affordable housing by 2005. According to the Colorado Division of Housing, Eagle County’s rental vacancy rate as of February has slightly loosened up from 1.2 percent to 2 percent. But Eagle County remains the tightest market in the state, with a 5-percent vacancy rate considered “healthy.”
If the PEC approves the project, opponents have 10 days to appeal it to the council, or the council can call up any decision voluntarily. If the PEC denies the project, the developer, Denver-based Coughlin and Company would likely ask for an appeal before the council.
The PEC meets at 2 p.m. today at the Vail Municipal Building. Middle Creek is the second item on the agenda.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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