Vail’s Middle Creek housing in limbo
Opponents and supporters couldn’t reach middle ground Monday, but the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission, or PEC, gladly stayed in the middle of the road.After more than two dozen people offer comments for more than two hours Monday, the commission delayed a final decision on whether to recommend the proposed affordable 142-unit apartment complex until. Sept. 9, when they plan to review a final application on Vail’s largest affordable housing proposal to date with members of Vail’s Design Review Board, or DRB.The decision mirrors a similar route taken by the DRB last week, when its members opted to delay a final decision on the $23 million project just west of the Mountain Bell microwave tower. Commissioner cited concerns about “massing and density” on the 25-acre Mountain Bell site, now known as Middle Creek.”Go to the town council; don’t come here and make our meetings long,” said PEC Commissioner Erickson Shirley, adding that after more than 12 months, two major redesigns and more than 30 public meetings, the project’s merit is still under debate – in the wrong arena.”If you guys don’t like the rent, go to the council. If you don’t like downvalley workers living up here, go to the housing authority, because we can’t change it,” he said, pointing to a poster on the wall stating the PEC’s reviews are limited to the zoning code and the town’s master plans.Shirley joined six of the seven PEC commissioners in support the project. Commissioner George Lamb, however, remained “emphatically against it” because of its “size and scope.”Mike Coughland of Coughland & Company, Middle Creek’s Denver-based developer, said if he can put concerns about rockfall hazards to rest and come up with a way to ease both boards’ unease with a four-story view from the east, the project may stand a chance. An appeal to the council is likely, he said, and financing for the project depends on an Oct. 31 approval deadline.Coughland said time is running out on coming up with the perfect housing project.”It is the Cadillac of affordable housing projects,” Coughland said. “It has covered parking – you rarely see that in a housing project. There is an elevator building – you don’t see that in housing projects. This is truly the finest so far in my experience.”But opponents and supporters clashed over issues far greater.”I must say this is an ill-conceived plan for this site,” said Tom Farnsworth, a Spraddle Creek homeowner and Memphis-based developer. “Vail is a wonderful place, so why wouldn’t you want the very best at your front door?”The very best, one supporter said, are the ones that can pay only $530 to $1,350 for a studio or three-bedroom apartment, respectively, in a rent-controlled complex in walking distance to Vail Village.Joel Heath, a Vail business owner who specializes in marketing Vail to the young and active, said a resort like Vail depends on the 18- to 34-year-old age group.”They chose lifestyle over revenue, and there is nobody in this community that deserves our front door more than these people on the front line. We tip these guys 20 percent. The least we can do is provide them with affordable housing.”Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at email@example.com.