Vail planning commission gets first look at proposed Booth Heights development
Parking, East Vail underpass among concerns raised by residents
VAIL — The public review of the proposed Booth Heights development may require several meetings. If Monday’s first meeting was an indication, those meetings will be well attended.
On Monday, the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission took its first look at the plan. That plan would add a total of 73 units to a 5.4-acre parcel just north of the Interstate 70 interchange at East Vail. The proposed unit mix breaks down this way:
- 42 deed-restricted, two-bedroom apartments. Vail Resorts would master lease 36 of those units.
- 19 deed-restricted for-sale townhomes.
- 12 unrestricted townhomes. Those homes will help pay for the deed-restricted units.
Vail Resorts and its corporate predecessors have owned the parcel since the early 1960s. Triumph Development has contracted to buy the land for housing.
The proposal meets the requirements of the town’s housing zone district. The Vail Town Council in 2017 rezoned the 23.3-acre parcel at the site to a combination of housing and natural area preservation zoning, with 17.9 acres in the latter zone district. The 5.4-acre parcel is the only empty land in town in the housing zone district.
Under the housing zoning designation, a developer must deed-restrict 70% of the residential square footage on those parcels. The remaining 30% can be sold at market rates to help pay for the deed-restricted housing.
At Monday’s meeting, commission members heard an overview of the project and also listened to public comment. Commission chairman Brian Stockmar asked audience members to limit their comments to the topics discussed at that meeting. Future meetings will provide opportunities to talk about wildlife, environmental impacts and other topics.
Stockmar and other commission members told audience members that written comments can be submitted, and those comments are read and become part of the public record.
During Monday’s meeting, which lasted more than three hours, much of the discussion centered on the proposed site plan, parking and similar issues.
Parking, particularly for the apartments, drew much of Monday’s discussion, from both commission members and those in the audience.
The Booth Heights proposal foresees slightly more than one parking space per unit. That’s significantly less than required in the town code.
Citing the Timber Ridge and Solar Vail apartments, Triumph Chief Operating Officer Michael O’Connor said studies show less parking can work for housing aimed at employees.
Solar Vail — a complex now under construction just east of Red Sandstone Elementary School — has just 0.52 spaces per unit, O’Connor said. The master leased units at Timber Ridge have 0.85 spaces per unit.
“We think we have the ability to control parking,” O’Connor said, adding that an on-site property manager will enforce parking regulations at the complex.
Some commission members were skeptical, although member John-Ryan Lockman said he and two friends moved to Vail several years ago with just one car and got along fine for a time.
O’Connor urged commission members to be open minded about parking.
“In many communities, parking ratios are going away,” O’Connor said. “Don’t let parking be a limitation.”
A dangerous underpass
Some residents said they’re worried about the effects of putting more pedestrians and vehicles in the area of the East Vail underpass.
Resident Donna Mumma called the underpass “one of the most dangerous” in town, citing the narrow structure, lack of pedestrian-vehicle barriers and short sight lines for both motorists and pedestrians.
“That is a very dangerous underpass,” Stockmar said. “If this is approved, it will become more dangerous.”
Other residents said they were unimpressed with the initial drawings of buildings that were presented Monday.
“It looks like a hodgepodge of treehouses put together by some kids,” resident Rol Hamelin said.
Commission members told O’Connor they want to see more detailed drawings, including representations of how the buildings will sit on the site.
While Monday’s comments were supposed to be limited to what was discussed, some residents did talk about Booth Heights’ potential impacts to the natural environment and wildlife.
Resident Josef Staufer was blunt, saying, “Environmentally, this project is a disaster.”
Tom Vucich, who was a critic of the proposal when Vail Resorts applied to rezone the property, urged the commission to take plenty of time in evaluating it.
“This is way too important to hurry,” Vucich said.
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.