West Vail’s future is being planned now | VailDaily.com

West Vail’s future is being planned now

The West Vail area is largely unchanged since it was annexed into town in 1980.

Much of West Vail is virtually unchanged in the decades since the area was annexed into town.

West Vail is a place where time has stood still in many ways. A new town effort aims to change that.

Town officials for the past several months have been working on a new master plan for West Vail. The scope of the plan includes commercial and residential areas on both the north and south sides of Interstate 70.

The next step in the planning process is a Dec. 17 transportation workshop, to be conducted virtually at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Vail Community Development Director Matt Gennett said that workshop is a chance for residents and planners to talk about topics including transportation, building and infrastructure design and housing.

Gennett said work on the plan has slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At first we were were concerned,” Gennett said. “If we can’t have public meetings with display boards (and other elements), how will we get input?”

But, Gennett added, he and other town officials have been “pleasantly surprised” with the level of public input so far.

A recent input session received 240 responses from residents. Gennett said planners were hoping for 100.

The effort isn’t limited to just members of the town planning staff and consultants, Gennett said. There’s an advisory committee that includes lay people, planners, second-home owners and others.

Using Zoom, that group has been able to meet virtually, even separating into different “rooms” to discuss a variety of topics.

What’s a master plan?

A master plan is not is a mandate for specific projects. What a master plan does is lay out guidelines about what a community wants a specific area to look like in the future. The recommendations in a master plan provide a guide for developers and local governments to work on future projects.

Dominic Mauriello is a land planner who has worked on several projects in Vail, including the Highline Hotel and Marriott Residence Inn.

Mauriello said he hopes the new plan — which could be finalized in July or August of 2021 — will provide an economic incentive to re-develop an area that’s been largely untouched since it was annexed into town in 1980.

Mauriello noted that much of the West Vail area doesn’t conform to current zoning. For instance, several condo and townhome buildings sit on land that’s zoned for nothing more than duplex housing. A number of commercial buildings also sit on land that can’t be redeveloped without a lengthy process of changing the zoning on the land.

That’s why the West Vail Mall looks pretty much the way it did 30 years ago.

Good guidelines would make it easier to make those changes, Mauriello said.

But, he added, he worries about trying to create a plan without the expertise of residents, financial professionals and others.

Mauriello added he’d like to see the plan reflect the need for adding density to the area. While grocery stores, barber shops and other uses should remain, the area ought to be able to put a few stories of housing above the retail areas, he said.

How that works

To create a good plan, town officials and consultants are now working on the second phase of the planning effort. There’s a lot to cover, and transportation will be a big part of the final plan.

The consultant team has proposed an idea for organizing the plan around the idea of a “20-minute neighborhood.“ That idea is being used in cities including Paris, Melbourne and Boulder. According to the EngageVail website, a 20-minute neighborhood includes all the services a resident or visitor might need within a short walk, bike ride or bus trip.

That means having sidewalks, bike paths and bus stops in the area to meet the mobility needs on both sides of I-70.

Another part of the planning is to preserve the service businesses already in West Vail.

Mauriello said West Vail’s hotels could provide another foundation for those local service businesses to thrive, since visitors provide additional spending at those businesses.

“They really do need to do the plan,” Mauriello said. “Everybody’s sitting on property that doesn’t meet (zoning) code.”

Learn about the plan

Visit http://www.engagevail.com to learn more about the West Vail Master Plan process.

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User