Vail Resorts proposes rezoning East Vail property for open space, housing

Vail Resorts or its corporate predecessors have owned this parcel in East Vail. But the ownership picture was jumbled in the 1960s, and the parcel fell off the county's tax rolls.

By the numbers

23.3 acres: Size of a Vail Resorts-owned parcel at the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange

17 acres: Portion of the parcel proposed for open space zoning.

6 acres: Portion of the parcel eyed for deed-restricted housing.

3 public hearings scheduled: Sept. 11 with the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission and Sept. 19 and Oct. 3 with the Vail Town Council.

Source: Vail Resorts, town of Vail

VAIL — Vail Resorts has proposed turning a large vacant parcel it owns in East Vail into open space and employee housing.

The company owns a 23.3-acre piece of land north of the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange. That land is current zoned for two-family primary and secondary zoning — duplex units. The company wants to change that.

In documents to be submitted Monday to the Vail Community Development Department, Vail Resorts is asking to subdivide and rezone the property. If approved, then about 17 acres would be converted to the town’s natural preservation zoning. The remaining land — about 6 acres — would be covered under the town’s housing zone.

Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said both of those designations are some of the town’s most restrictive.

Natural preservation zoning allows trails and little else on a parcel. That means the parcel couldn’t be turned into ballfields, playgrounds or similar uses.

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The housing zone designation is similarly restrictive and allows only deed-restricted workforce housing. Other areas in town with that zoning designation are the Timber Ridge and Lions Ridge apartments and the new Chamonix neighborhood.

Besides the restrictions on the type of housing allowed, Ruther said projects in the housing zone must also be thoroughly planned out before construction.

“With that development plan, you know exactly what you’re getting,” Ruther said.

Planning in public

That re-zoning process will start at the Sept. 11 meeting of the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission. If the zoning request is approved, then the Vail Town Council will be asked to approve an ordinance re-zoning the property. That process requires two public hearings before final approval.

Those meetings could come as soon as Sept. 19. If initial approval goes through at that time, then the second public hearing could be as soon as Oct. 3.

After that, the schedule gets a bit more vague.

Vail Resorts Vice President of Community Affairs Kristin Kenney Williams said once the land is re-zoned, the company will seek out a developer for the project. That developer would submit plans to the town.

Once a plan is drafted, Vail Resorts would decide how much of the housing it will master-lease for its own employees. Once that’s known, the company will be able to put a dollar amount on its contribution to the project.

Whatever the final amount, the still-unnamed project will be part of a $30 million commitment to workforce housing the company announced in 2015.

One portion of that commitment has been approved — the Wintergreen Workforce Housing Community in Keystone.

That project, built by Gorman & Co., is expected to build as many as 200 units on the north side of U.S. Highway 6 between Keystone and Dillon. The project will include a combination of one- and two-bedroom units, three-bedroom seasonal units and mostly one-bedroom units for low-income county residents.

Kenney Williams said once the project was approved and Vail Resorts determined how many units it would master-lease, the company now estimates that Wintergreen represents roughly $6 million of the $30 million pledge.

How much of the pledge the East Vail project will represent also depends on what’s finally built at the site and how many units Vail Resorts will master lease for its employees.

“This is housing that isn’t tied to any other (Vail Resorts) obligation,” Kenney Williams said.

A matter of timing

If all of the approvals and plans come to fruition, then the big question is when construction might start.

Kenney Williams said starting work depends largely on getting new zoning on the East Vail parcel, finding a developer, creating a plan and getting it approved.

But, Ruther said, the town will do what it can to speed the process along.

Ruther said the town’s current employee-housing efforts are somewhat similar to efforts in the 1990s and early 2000s to re-develop Vail’s resort areas.

Those efforts, called “Vail’s Billion Dollar Renewal” at the time, included a lot of new and renovated property in the resort villages.

At the time, town officials worked with developers to get those projects approved as efficiently as possible.

Ruther said much the same philosophy will be used for employee-housing efforts.

Ruther noted that the town’s mission statement is to be the “premier international resort community.”

During the Billion Dollar Renewal, the focus was on the “resort” part of that statement, Ruther said.

“Now it’s clearly time to focus on the community side,” Ruther said, adding that early efforts on that front include the Vail 2027 Housing Plan and the Chamonix townhomes.

“This is important, especially when the private sector is looking to help the community with housing,” Ruther said. “We need to do everything possible on our end to facilitate that.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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