Vail hotel/apartment plan earns key approval
By the numbers
96: Deed restricted apartments in the latest Marriott Residence Inn proposal.
48: Apartments will allow one dog each.
170: Hotel rooms.
22 months: Estimated construction time.
VAIL — A proposal to add 170 hotel rooms and 96 deed restricted apartments in Vail cleared a major hurdle Tuesday.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday voted 5-2 to approve on first reading an ordinance to create a special development district for a proposed Marriott Residence Inn in West Vail. Council members Kevin Foley and Jen Mason cast the dissenting votes. Final approval requires another council vote, as well as negotiation of development agreements with Chicago-based developer Peter Dumon’s Harp Group.
The council vote came after the board on Jan. 3 continued the hearing until Tuesday. In the two weeks between meetings, the project came in shorter and with 11 fewer apartments.
The vote Tuesday came after more than three hours of presentations and public comments.
Those comments included vocal opposition from neighbors and whole-hearted support from both Vail residents and people who want to live in town. Many supporters responded to a public relations campaign encouraging support for the project. That campaign, which included print advertising, a website and social media efforts on Twitter, carried the tagline, “Let Me Live in Vail.”
A number of people in the almost-full Town Council meeting room Tuesday wore stickers urging the council to approve the plan.
A glaring need
Supporters who spoke to the council said the proposed apartments fill a glaring community need.
Rick Smith, chief administrative officer of Vail Valley Medical Center, told council members that the Marriott “will have a positive impact on our business and other businesses” in Vail.
And, while project neighbors made up most of the opposition, one neighbor, Hank Saipe, said he’s a supporter.
“It’s a good project, and I’m going to be very affected by it,” Saipe said.
Opponents of the project focused primarily on its size.
Resident Gwen Scalpello noted that the length of the building would occupy nearly half a city block in New York City.
Howard Picking, whose condo may be the closest to the proposed structure, said adding the apartments to the hotel increases the size of the structure from “too big to far too big.”
One of Picking’s neighbors, Wendy Erb, also questioned the affordability of the project’s estimated rent of $1,500 per month for a one-bedroom unit. Using the standard of paying 30 percent of someone’s gross income for housing, Erb noted that an individual would have to earn roughly $60,000 per year to afford a one-bedroom unit.
But Edwards resident Heidi Krzebietke said she’d rent a unit at the Marriott.
“I pay way more than that now to live downvalley,” she said.
As council members wrestled with the building’s size, they also had to consider what can be built on the old Roost Lodge site.
Planner Dominic Mauriello told the council that Dumon’s firm has two options for the site: the lodging and apartment project or a hotel-only building.
But it’s big
If approved as only a hotel, and built to the size allowed by town zoning on the property, then Mauriello said the building would be very close to the size proposed for the hotel and apartment building.
Vail resident Heather McDonald said she lives near the site, and encouraged council members to include the plan with housing.
Calling the proposed structure “huge,” McDonald said she’d rather have a big building with housing than one without.
“We need this,” McDonald said. “I work multiple jobs to pay (the estimated) rent. I pay it now. Workers will pay that.”
West Vail resident Steve Lindstrom is also the chairman of the Vail Local Housing Authority. Lindstrom also favored a big building with housing.
With the full proposal, “You get 96 housing units without any kind of subsidy, a LEED-certified building and parking,” Lindstrom said. “If they build by (zoning), it’s just a big building.”
During the council’s discussion, council member Dick Cleveland said the project is a compromise.
“My goal is to get the project that best serves both the community and the neighborhood,” Cleveland said, adding that the changes made between Jan. 3 and Tuesday answered most of his objections. Cleveland also challenged the business community to do more in terms of adding housing without taxpayer involvement.
While the apartments were the main focus of Tuesday’s hearing, Cleveland and other council members also noted the addition of 170 mid-priced hotel rooms to the town’s inventory.
“Is it perfect? No,” Cleveland said. “But pursuit of the perfect at the expense of the excellent is a fool’s errand.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
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