Vail Open Lands Plan draft details limited vacant parcels left in town
What’s the plan?
Here’s the mission statement from the 1994 Vail Open Lands Plan:
“(The) purpose of this plan is to identify and develop strategies for acquiring or protecting key remaining open lands in Vail that would be valuable for recreation, protecting sensitive environmental resources, extending or connecting trails, providing adequate neighborhood open space, and creating a small amount of contingent land for unforeseen needs (e.g. employee housing, public facilities).”
Source: Town of Vail
VAIL — As town officials have worked on updating the Vail Open Lands Plan, it’s become apparent that there isn’t much truly vacant land left in town.
A portion of the Vail Town Council meeting on Tuesday, July 17, was dedicated to a review of the update’s recommendations for current town-owned lands and the status of privately-owned vacant parcels around town.
Recommendations in the 1994 plan resulted in the eventual purchase of land now used for the Middle Creek apartments and Chamonix townhomes. Other property was acquired for recreation and open space.
Consultant Tom Braun, who’s been working on the updated plan with town officials, noted that the town currently owns about 533 acres of dedicated open space. The use of that property can’t be changed without a vote of residents.
Other town-owned property — 61 parcels — is classified as “constrained,” meaning that virtually any use would be difficult or impossible.
The town owns a residential lot on Beaver Dam Road. That property, in one of the town’s slopeside neighborhoods, would normally be a valuable asset. But, Braun said, the wetlands on the lot make the property difficult to even walk on. Other town-owned parcels are in avalanche zones or are on steep slopes.
One very small lot is too small for much more than a picnic table, Braun said.
Still some desirable land
As part of the inventory of vacant land in town, Braun and town staff members identified four parcels of private property with potential public use.
Perhaps the most desirable of that property is two parcels — about 1.5 acres total — behind the Safeway and Vail das Schone shopping center in West Vail. Braun told council members that the parcels have about 1 acre of buildable space.
It could be worth seeing if there’s an opportunity for the town to acquire those parcels, Braun said.
The old Roost Lodge site in West Vail is on the draft plan, mainly because the property is currently vacant. The Chicago-based Harp Group in 2016 and 2017 worked with the town on a “Special Development District” designation for the property, with the idea of building a Marriott Residence Inn and nearly 100 deed-restricted apartments on the site.
The next step in that plan is for the Harp Group to work with the town on a development plan for the property.
But Vail Interim Community Development Department head Chris Neubecker said it’s been “at least” six months since his department has heard from the developers.
Changing the draft
Also still on the plan is a pond in East Vail owned by a group of homeowners. Homeowner Kathryn Benysh at the July 3 meeting asked the council to remove the pond from the plan.
Mayor Dave Chapin said Tuesday the pond will stay in the plan, just for the sake of an inventory of parcels. But, Chapin said, the current owners have been good stewards of the property, and the plan won’t envision any change in use for the pond property.
The plan will likely see a number of changes — some big and some small — by the time the council votes to approve the document. That will happen later this year, since council members have said they want a nearly line-by-line review and plenty of public comment.
Vail resident Blondie Vucich and her husband, Tom, have attended meetings about the plan since it was before the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission earlier this year.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Blondie Vucich asked council members if she and other residents could submit written comments.
Vucich said her comments would be concise, and would reference specific page numbers in the draft plan.
“It might be helpful to hear from constituents who have been involved the past two years,” Vucich said.
Chapin said council members would welcome those comments.
Council member Greg Moffet encouraged Vucich and others to submit written comments earlier than later, in order to incorporate those comments into the public discussion about the plan.
“I foresee us spending a meeting or two, or three, walking through specific language until we get to something we’re comfortable voting on,” Moffet said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.
The valley’s commercial and residential property markets are similar in some ways — availability is tight and nothing is what you’d call “cheap.”