Vail Daily Year in Review, Part 3: In Vail, new development, leadership changes and housing
Editor’s note: This is the third part of a five-part series reviewing the biggest news in the Vail Valley in 2017. Find additional installments in the paper in coming days and at http://www.vaildaily.com.
As you’d expect from the economic hub of the Vail Valley, the town of Vail had a lot going on in 2017. Let’s take a look.
Projects come to fruition
• The clubhouse — After about five years of controversy and litigation, the Vail Golf Club and Nordic Center clubhouse held its grand opening in January.
The ribbon cutting for the $11 million facility gave officials from the town and the Vail Recreation Center a chance to show off a little.
Since then, a number of community meetings and events have been held in the new meeting/banquet room. You can see the Gore Range from the floor-to-ceiling windows on the east side of the building. It’s really nice.
• Pickleball fury — A new pickleball center at the Golden Peak tennis courts opened in June. There are six courts available, and they stay pretty busy.
• A nice new park — The town in June held another grand opening for a facility, this time the newly-renovated park at Booth Creek, near Vail Mountain School.
The celebration showed off new play structures for kids, as well as a picnic area, a bit of parking and paved walkways. The park was the result of more than a year of planning that included local kids. Like most new things in Vail, this too, is really nice.
• The new underpass — Another years-long project — and an idea that dates back to the 1980s — was the construction of a new underpass beneath Interstate 70 that links the town’s north and south frontage roads. The new roadway opened in October.
The project — which took two full construction seasons — included the excavation of tens of thousands of cubic yards of dirt to drop the north frontage road enough to go under two new bridges on I-70. It ended up with a $30.1 million price tag, and the town paid not quite 30 percent of that cost.
The result is a new way to link the north and south sides of town. Projected benefits include taking pressure off the roundabouts at the main Vail and West Vail interchanges. Planners also believe the underpass will aid the town’s transit system and will speed response times for police officers, fire trucks and ambulances.
• ‘Beautiful water’ — In November, the former Vail Cascade hotel was unveiled as the Hotel Talisa — talisa being a Ute word for “beautiful water.” The grand opening came after more than a year of delays. The hotel, now aimed at the luxury portion of the lodging market, has 285 rooms and a new, on-site spa.
Others in progress
• New parking — The town and Eagle County Schools in August signed an agreement to build a new, 160-space parking structure at Red Sandstone Elementary School. The district is already planning an extensive renovation of the school, and the parking structure will be part of that project.
While more parking is the main news, plans for the structure also prompted Vail Resorts to commit $4 million to the project. That money had been promised for parking for the past several years. Work is expected to start in 2018.
• The hospital — Vail Valley Medical Center in August unveiled a new name — Vail Health. The new name rolled out at about the same time the hospital unveiled its newly-remodeled and expanded west wing.
Work on the $100 million project continues, with projects including a new east wing, new emergency department and, ultimately, a helipad kind-of next door to the Evergreen Lodge. That helipad will move the air ambulance landing facility to the south side of South Frontage Road.
Plans call for a tunnel to link the helipad with the hospital, so patients can be taken directly to a waiting helicopter.
• Regulating rentals — After a lot of research and a good bit of public comment, the Vail Town Council in December approved new regulations to govern short-term rentals. Those rentals have proliferated in past few years thanks to websites including Airbnb.
The new regulations require property owners to pay lodging taxes, as before. New regulations include annual submission of an affidavit that each unit rented by an owner acknowledging trash, noise and parking regulations. Owners must also submit affidavits that their units are equipped with fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and similar items.
The new regulations take effect March 1, 2018.
• Vail is sustainable — After months of work, Vail was named the first “certified sustainable destination” in the U.S. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Green Destinations awarded the designation. Vail was evaluated in areas including wildlife health, energy use, waste and more.
• A Classic return — The council in December agreed to provide about $310,000 to run two stages of the four-stage Colorado Classic. That pro cycling event, created in the wake of the demise of the USA Pro Challenge, will focus stages in Vail and Denver in 2018.
• A new sister city? — The council in July spent some time with a delegation from Japan’s Nagano Prefecture and city of Nagano. That area is home to some of Japan’s best skiing and national parks that are home to the country’s famed “snow monkeys.”
As research continues on a sister city agreement, a Vail delegation is expected to travel to Japan in March of 2018.
• So long, Stan — Former Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler in April attended his last Vail Town Council meeting, capping a 13-year tenure in the job.
Town officials had to re-launch the nationwide search for a replacement. Greg Clifton, who held the similar job in Telluride, in September started full-time work at the town.
• At the polls — Vail’s Town Council election had 10 candidates seeking four available seats. When the votes were counted, Mayor Dave Chapin and council members Jenn Bruno and Greg Moffet were re-elected, along with newcomer Travis Coggin. The council appointed Chapin for another two-year term as Mayor, re-appointing Bruno as Mayor Pro Tem.
Moffet’s time on council will end in 2019. By then he’ll have served his maximum of eight consecutive years on council.
Housing, housing, housing
After years of talk and planning, there’s action, and a good bit of it, on the housing front. Here’s a quick look:
The town in April started construction on the Chamonix neighborhood, a 32-unit townhome project in West Vail, just to the north and east of the fire station in the area.
There was some criticism over prices — the handful of top-priced units topped out above $700,000 — and the fact the lottery didn’t give preference to longtime residences. Still, more than 90 people qualified to enter May’s lottery drawing.
By November, six potential buyers had backed out, so the town will conduct a new lottery in early 2018.
The Vail Town Council in October approved spending $4.225 million from the town’s housing fund to buy deed restrictions on 65 units, to be built on the site of the current Solar Vail apartments, just east of Red Sandstone Elementary School.
The council in February approved zoning — called a “special development district — for a proposed Marriott Residence Inn. That project will include a hotel, as well as nearly 100 deed-restricted apartments. Those apartments will be rented at market rates, but only to people who work an average of 30 hours per week or more at Vail and Eagle County businesses. The project, on the site of the old Roost Lodge in West Vail, is expected to break ground in 2018.
The council ended the year by approving another special development district for Phase 2 of the Mountain View Residences. That project, just east of the Vail Village parking structure, will create 15 apartments reserved for people who work in town. The project will also build 15 condos and 20 accessory units for short-term rentals. Given that there are only 48 workforce housing units in Vail Village now, this qualifies as a big deal.
On the subject of big deals, the council in early October approved a proposed rezoning of a 23-acre parcel just north of the East Vail interchange on I-70. That parcel, owned by Vail Resorts, will dedicate 5.4 acres of the property to the town’s housing zone district. That designation requires workforce housing to be built on the site.
The remainder of the parcel is now in the town’s natural preservation zoning. Several neighbors opposed the plan, in part because the parcel is winter range for a small herd of bighorn sheep. Vail Resorts is now looking for a developer to submit a plan. That’s going to create its own controversy in 2018.
Paul Cuthbertson set out by himself around 3 p.m. Friday from the trailhead that leads up to the Polar Star Inn, according to his father, Mike, but never made it to the popular backcountry hut as a late-spring snowstorm moved in.