Vail Town Council upholds approval of Evergreen Lodge redevelopment plans
Vail International's appeal centered on project’s mass, design, and impact to neighborhood and environment
The Vail Town Council at its Tuesday meeting upheld the approval made by the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission on the redevelopment of the Evergreen Lodge.
The Town Council heard an appeal from the adjacent property, Vail International Condominium Owners Association, which cited 12 specific concerns with the project as proposed and approved by the commission on Nov. 14.
“What’s proposed by the developer and what was recommended for approval by the narrowest of margins by a 4 to 3 vote of the PEC is too massive, does not comply with the Lionshead Redevelopment Revised Master Plan, is too urban-industrial in appearance, does not fit architecturally with the surrounding area, would present an eyesore, particularly with its proposed massive west-facing wall, not only to the VICOA owners but to pedestrians walking along West Meadow Drive,” said Rohn Robbins, acting as the legal representation and attorney for the Vail International association. “It would also threaten the environment and natural experience of Middle Creek, and it does not meet the goal of maintaining live beds in or about the Lionshead-Vail core.”
Evergreen Lodge redevelopment
The existing Evergreen Lodge was built in 1974 and is located on the edge of Lionshead adjacent to both Vail Health Hospital and Dobson Arena. In the almost 50 years since, the complex has had minor improvements but remains largely as constructed.
While the Solaris Group — which acquired the property in 2012, under the name HCT Development — first submitted its application for redevelopment in February 2022 to Vail’s Planning and Environmental Commission, the property’s redevelopment has been contemplated for some time.
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In 2005, the property was incorporated into the Lionshead Redevelopment Master Plan and included as part of the Lionshead Mixed Use 1 zone district. And in 2017, Vail Health and the Evergreen Lodge completed a land exchange. This process included coordinated development agreements for both properties’ future developments.
In February 2022, Solaris submitted its redevelopment application to the PEC, kicking off a 10-month review process. Throughout 2022, the project went before the commission five times and engaged with various stakeholders, including town staff. The developer then submitted a revised plan in October, which was ultimately the plan approved by the PEC on Nov. 14.
The plan approved contemplates the following components:
- 109 residential condominiums (ranging from one- to four-bedroom units)
- A minimum of 100 attached accommodation units
- A roofing structure with flat and sloped roofs, planted roofscapes and amenities as well as a solar array
- Amenities such as a lobby with a front desk and concierge, workout facilities and an exterior pool, hot tubs and fire pits
- Space for an eating and drinking establishment
- Space for a retail shop
- 20 on-site employee housing units
The plan passed in a 4-3 vote from the commission with 11 conditions. These conditions range from requiring the applicant to obtain design review approval, the execution of deed restrictions for its employee housing units, planning and implementing a Middle Creek Stream Corridor Protection and Improvement Plan, obtaining LEED certification and more.
The Vail International Condominium Owners Association, represented by Robbins, presented its appeal of the approved redevelopment at Tuesday night’s council meeting. Robbins ran through the 12 specific items cited in the appeal and urged the council to send the project back for more work.
“Whatever the town ultimately approves will significantly impact the town for many decades to come. As such, we believe it’s critical to get it right,” he said. “We’re not saying we’re opposed to redevelopment of this property, we’re saying that this proposal is too big, too massive and that we would like it to go back to the drawing board.”
Many of these concerns were rooted in the overall appearance and mass of the project. While the appellant’s general comments on appearance expressed that the proposal was too “industrial-looking” and out of line with “Vail’s ‘alpine’ architectural direction,” other items pointed to specific worries about the project’s roof slopes, windows, as well as its size and height (particularly on its west end).
Speaking to this effect, Elaine Lapin said that the “bulk and mass” were not needed in the town “right now.”
In addition to its appearance, the appellant expressed other concerns. These ranged from an insufficient number of employee housing units and parking spaces at the building, a failure to maintain live beds, the possibility of a public walkway being eliminated, negative impacts to Gore Creek, and safety concerns over the building’s proximity to Vail Health’s helipad.
Robbins also argued on Tuesday that the project as proposed would “maximize the developer’s profits at the expense of the existing owners of the adjacent VICOA property.”
Trust in the process
While the developer debated each of the appellant’s 12 points at Tuesday night’s hearing, the crux of its argument was that the application had followed the town’s development process correctly thus far, and would continue to do so into the future.
“The 10-month review process with PEC worked as it should. We gathered valuable input from the commissioners, staff and neighbors,” said Sharon Cohn, president of the Solaris Group. “We acknowledge we have a better project today than we came in with almost a year ago, due to the feedback and guidance we received from the PEC.”
On Tuesday, several community members also spoke in support of the project’s more “modern” appearance and role in Vail’s future.
“It makes a beautiful connection from the hospital to Meadow Drive and will fit beautifully if the Civic Center is developed,” Alan Danson said.
Ted Steers, who owns Vail Village Rentals, said any changes to the project as proposed wouldn’t serve the community’s needs.
“Vail’s already in a need for a lot more inventory … I think if we make any change to this building, it’s going to be a negative effect, it’s going to be too small,” he said, later adding, “You need to embrace the hotel quality of this design in order to meet all of our objectives.”
Additionally, several community members — while supporting the right to appeal — expressed that the Planning and Environmental Commission had done its job in the review process. And as Mark Gordon put it: “The process has worked.”
Ultimately, it was for this reason that the Town Council voted unanimously to uphold the Planning and Environmental Commission’s approval.
“I was on the PEC prior to this; what I was told then was that my job was to apply the code and apply the code to the letter. To me, that’s been done. And I really don’t see reason to overturn a decision by the PEC in this case,” said Council member Pete Seibert.
With this unanimous decision, the Evergreen Lodge’s redevelopment plans will now continue to work through the review process, starting with Vail’s Design Review Board. Council members Jen Mason and Kevin Foley said the town’s design review board would address many of the concerns brought forth.
“The investment to get to where we are today has been huge — time, money, and for me, some due gray hair. But for me, the investment to move forward with a sustainable redevelopment is even greater,” Cohn said. “Just like we worked with the PEC, we look forward to the next step in our review process with the Design Review Board. Their feedback and guidance will surely bring forth additional improvements to our project.”