West Vail hotel plan gets first approval from town council
Plan would add 79 rooms, 15-unit employee housing building to current Highline hotel
- 79 new hotel rooms, 176 total.
- 12 dormitory-style workforce housing bedrooms.
- A 15-unit workforce housing apartment building with 34 bedrooms.
- New meeting space.
The Vail Town Council Tuesday gave unanimous initial approval to a plan to dramatically change West Vail’s only hotel.
The application from the owners of Highline, a Doubletree by Hilton, is fairly complex, not least from a legal standpoint.
The hotel has to change its zoning — the property was annexed into the town in 1980 and given zoning that doesn’t apply to current uses. The project also requires the town to create a “special development district” for the project. The town creates those districts in order to grant variances from zoning standards.
One of the keys to the special district process is a developer must convince the council that the project will benefit the community.
Local planner Dominic Mauriello outlined those benefits in his presentation to the council.
At the top of the benefits list is workforce housing. The proposal includes 12 dormitory-style bedrooms, as well as a new building with 15 apartments. Those apartments have a total of 34 bedrooms.
The project will also add 79 new hotel rooms, bringing the lodge’s total to 176.
Mauriello’s presentation also estimates increased lodging and sales taxes and increased spending at West Vail businesses from both residents and guests.
The proposal also adds meeting space to the hotel.
The proposal has drawn opposition, primarily from neighbors. The apartment building on the north side of the property will obstruct their views. Opponents also claim the apartment building will block the winter sun, creating hazardous conditions on Chamonix Road.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first in-person council meeting since March, with councilmembers and town officials scattered throughout the room and an abundance of plexiglass dividers. The council was able to take in-person comments at the meeting. Others weighed in via Zoom streaming technology.
In person, Tanya Boyd told councilmembers she lives directly behind the proposed apartment building. Boyd said realigning the building to face north-south instead of east-west makes more sense for neighbors.
The plan “is not at all appropriate for the neighborhood,” neighbor Mike Spears said.
Appearing in person, Spears added that allowing a 36-foot building height will set a precedent for other property along North Frontage Road in West Vail. Noting the proliferation of tall buildings in and near Vail Village, Spears called the precedent the “Solaris effect.”
Speaking via Zoom, Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey called the Highline proposal a “timely, important project.”
Wadey added that in-town housing will be even more important than it is now as employers try to recruit workers in coming seasons. And, she added, the Highline also meets a need for “mid-priced” hotel rooms in Vail.
Vail Local Housing District Chairman Steve Lindstrom said the proposal “is a great use of the commercial area as we move forward.”
Final approval will need changes
Councilmember Kevin Foley, who voted for initial approval of the plan, said he has “a lot of concerns” about the project.
Mayor Dave Chapin also voted for the special development district, but said he’d like to see some adjustments, particularly about building height, before the proposal comes in for a second vote.
Councilmember Jenn Bruno said she appreciates a developer coming in with a project that creates workforce housing without any town subsidies.
Councilmember Jen Mason noted she lives in the West Vail neighborhood — as does Bruno. Like others, Mason said she’d like to see some changes to the project when it comes in for final approval.
“I really think you can do better,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.