Vail considers divesting itself of Berry Creek
The Vail Town Council has authorized Bob McLaurin, outgoing town manager, to negotiate an agreement that would leave Eagle County and ASW Realty Partners as the developers of 282 affordable homes there.
“I expect the council to accept the offer,” McLaurin said Thursday. “It allows us to get some money back and allows the county to unilaterally move forward with the project.”
Vail Town Councilwoman Diana Donovan said the agreement works better for the town.
Miller Ranch Housing, the 282-unit residential complex, the largest affordable housing project in the county, is under construction in Edwards and the county is accepting applications for the first phase – 38 homes.
“I think the offer is fair and reasonable,” said Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz.
Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad said the town and the county could continue as partners, but this arrangement protects Vail from possible losses.
“It makes it easier for us to complete the rest of the development,” Ingstad said. “This is a good deal for them and for us.”
County officials reached the $1 million figure after considering development costs and expenses, Ingstad said. As a partner with the county, the town of Vail is obligated to pay for half the expenses for development. It also is entitled to 50 percent of any profits from sales.
Under the new agreement, the town of Vail would no longer be obligated to pay for development expenses.
“We’re advancing them potential profit from the sale of the homes,” Ingstad said. “Their share would depend on how the sales go.”
County Commissioner Tom Stone said he doesn’t expect the county to make any profits from the sales.
“The purpose of this project is not to make money,” Stone said. “We’re trying to keep the cost of the units as low as possible.”
County commissioners already have agreed to advance money for a day care and a community center at the site.
“We hope that the county breaks even after paying for that,” Stone said.
“This proposal is appropriate because it recognizes residents who work in the town of Vail.”
In a letter sent to the town of Vail, the county commits to making half of the units available to qualified buyers employed within the town.
County Commissioner Michael Gallagher said the arrangement will simplify the development process, as well as future operations.
The town and the county have not yet reached an agreement on deed restrictions.
“Our intent was to try to have the same deed restrictions that we have in Vail,” Kurz said of the town’s current cap of 3 percent. “The county would like to see that done differently.”
Gallagher said he would like to see the cap grow with wages.
“In light of that, we thought it would be cleaner and simpler to let the county develop the property,” Kurz said.
Stone said by paying the town of Vail $1 million, the county could be taking a risk.
“We might lose money,” he said. “But this is in recognition of what the town of Vail has done by facilitating the purchase of the land where the affordable housing site is. The reason that the town of Vail was working with the county is becasue it has a long history of supporting that property.”
In 1999, the county bought the 105-acre Berry Creek 5th filing for $2 million from the Eagle County Recreation Authority, which consists of the county, the towns of Vail and Avon and the metro districts of Arrowhead, Beaver Creek, Berry Creek and Eagle-Vail.
The authority, formed in 1991 to develop the Berry Creek 5th filing, had purchased percentage-based partnerships in the property from Vail, which bought the property in 1989 for about $1.8 million, McLaurin said.
“We would have never been able to buy that property if it hadn’t been for the town of Vail,” Stone said.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.