Vail ready to rebuild Lionshead
The Vail Town Council last week gave itself a pair of legal tools to start work on the ambitious redevelopment of Lionshead.
The first tool sets a base for the “tax increment financing” that will help pay for the public part of the renovations. With that tool, the town will be able to keep all the taxes collected from properties where the value increased after renovation. Other entities that levy property tax on those parcels, including Eagle County and the local school district, will collect money based on the current assessed value, plus the normal rate of inflation.
While setting a baseline for future financing, the council delayed starting a 25-year “clock” on collecting those taxes. Once that “clock” starts ticking, the tax financing plan will last only 25 years from the time it starts.
If work in Lionshead is delayed for any reason, the town would still only be able to use tax financing from the time it started the clock.
“We recommend you make use of the financing only when you’re ready,” said Malcolm Murray, an attorney working on the project with the town.
In setting up its tool kit, the town also gave the Vail Reinvestment Authority – which is the town council meeting as an urban renewal board – the authority to condemn property, but only under a specific set of circumstances.
One impediment to redeveloping is covenants on several Lionshead properties, said town Community Development Director Russell Forrest. Those covenants in some case pre-date town zoning, Forrest said, and as such can sometimes conflict with the land use regulations that will be used to approve renovation projects.
Removing those covenants requires a form of condemnation.
While the town has the power to change the land use documents governing properties in the urban renewal zone, it can only do so if approached by a property owner, Forrest said.
During the meeting, Vail Town Council member Dick Cleveland stressed that point to those in attendance. “By doing this, we aren’t condemning any property now, and we’re not revoking any covenants. We’re setting the stage,” he said.
In fact, the council did use its powers as an urban renewal authority Tuesday to remove a set of covenants from a lot in Vail Village known as P-3 & J, a parcel across the street from the Christiania Lodge. That parcel, owned by Vail Resorts, is slated for development this year as a for-sale parking garage with a public park on top. Vail Resorts officials requested the action so work could begin.
Vail Resorts also asked the Town Council to remove covenants from a parcel at the west end of Forest Road, which the company wants to develop into four single-family homes.
That’s the sort of action the town will take at Lionshead, Forrest said. “We can’t go after property and condemn it without a specific request by the owner for us to do that,” Forrest said.