Study finds Vail’s vacant, steep West Middle Creek parcel suitable for housing
What: West Middle Creek.
Location: On the north side of Interstate 70, between the Middle Creek Village and Solar Vail apartment complexes.
Size: 17.87 acres.
Owner: Town of Vail.
Current zoning: Natural Area Preservation, which is among the town’s most restrictive zoning designations.
VAIL — A mostly steep hillside on the north side of Interstate 70 could accommodate workforce housing, but it won’t be easy.
The Vail Town Council earlier this year hired local architect Bill Pierce to study the feasibility of housing on the 17.87-acre site known as West Middle Creek, which sits between the Middle Creek Village and Solar Vail apartment complexes.
The idea of using the West Middle Creek site for housing was first raised in 2017 by East Vail resident Alan Danson. Danson proposed that the town trade the West Middle Creek site for a Vail Resorts-owned, 23.3-acre parcel on the north side of the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange. The council last year agreed to rezone the site into two pieces. Most of the East Vail site — 17.4 acres — is now in the town’s “Natural Area Preservation” zone, one of the town’s most restrictive. The remaining 5.4 acres is in the town’s “housing” zoning designation, which would allow workforce housing. No plan has been submitted for the property zoned for housing.
Doomed bighorn population
That proposal was opposed by a number of East Vail residents. Council member Kim Langmaid also opposes putting housing on the site, not least because it is critical winter range for a small flock of bighorn sheep. Langmaid has said she believes putting housing on the site would doom that small population of bighorns.
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While Pierce’s study of West Middle Creek determined the West Middle Creek site is potentially suitable for housing — perhaps as many as 175 units of 800 square feet each — there are a number of obstacles.
Perhaps the biggest is that all parking at the site would have to be underground. That’s the most expensive kind of parking to build.
In addition, a new bridge over Middle Creek would be required.
On the other hand, the site could use the entry to the Middle Creek apartments, and the town already owns the land.
The study raised mixed feelings among both staff and residents attending the Tuesday, Sept. 18, Vail Town Council meeting.
Steve Lindstrom, chairman of the Vail Local Housing Authority, said the location of the West Middle Creek site — about a 10-minute walk from both Vail Village and Lionshead — makes the site worth a closer look.
“Don’t close the door on this,” Lindstrom said. “Keep it on the back burner somewhere so it’s available (in the future).”
Danson said he was “delighted” by the report’s findings, adding he’s still hopeful that the site could be used as an alternative to the East Vail parcel.
Longtime resident Jim Lamont, representing the Vail Homeowners Association, told the council to “proceed with all due deliberations and cautions. … This should be given greater scrutiny before we move forward.”
Mayor Dave Chapin acknowledged he voted against funding the study. But with the report in hand, Chapin said the “potential is immense” for the site.
“It’s a long road, but you can’t get close to a better site for employee housing,” he said.
Langmaid said she’d prefer to see additional workforce housing created through re-developing already-built parcels. But, she added, there’s “much greater ecological value at the site in East Vail.”
While the original thought was to use West Middle Creek instead of East Vail, council member Greg Moffet, with fellow council member Jenn Bruno in agreement, took a different view.
While saying he’s “loath” to vote to rezone the West Middle Creek parcel from its current Natural Area Preservation zoning, he added that “I’d look at this in addition to, instead of in lieu of,” the East Vail parcel.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2930.