Who is going to buy Chamonix units?
What: The Chamonix parcel in Vail.
Location: West Vail, roughly behind the fire station.
Parcel size: About 3 acres.
What’s envisioned: A for-sale housing project of roughly 50 units.
Timetable: Unit construction could begin this year.
VAIL — Every good idea eventually slows down due to details. That’s where town of Vail officials are right now regarding a proposed housing project on the 3-acre Chamonix parcel in West Vail.
Vail’s town council members all agree the property — bought in the early 2000s for what now seems a bargain price of $2.5 million — should be used to build for-sale housing for families, young professionals and other long-term residents. Everyone agrees there should be 50 or so units and ample open space there.
That’s the easy part. But sometime between when the town awards a contract for street improvements, adding utilities to the site and other work and actually starting to build units, there are a lot of questions to answer:
• Who’s going to actually run the project?
• How will the units be priced?
• How much is the town willing to subsidize buyers?
Vail Housing Director Alan Nazarro presented the council with a number of options to consider Tuesday, ranging from the town acting as its own developer to the outright sale of the land, and subsidy options ranging from as little as possible to whatever is needed to make the idea work.
The final course of action will lie somewhere along those lines, but where officials will finally land remains an open question of its own, with significant differences of opinion about the best way to move forward.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Council member Greg Moffet talked Tuesday about the town acting either alone or in concert with a combination of public agencies and private businesses.
“I’ve made peace with the fact we’re writing a check (to subsidize the project),” Moffet said. “It’s just a matter of how big (a check).”
On the other side of the discussion, council member Dick Cleveland said town officials need to carefully eye costs and possible subsidies, and may need to make units smaller in order to make them more affordable to build and buy.
Cleveland also more than once balked at the current vague estimate of about $40 million to build the project, saying the town can’t afford to act alone.
Cleveland noted that while the town can’t simply pay for the project, going to voters to ask for bond-issue financing would add another year of delay.
Town Manager Stan Zemler told the council that the town’s financial involvement is ultimately a policy question.
“At some point, we need an answer about how much public money is going to whom,” he said.
Before town officials can answer that question, they’ll need to understand just how much this project is really going to cost. Zemler said getting an idea of costs per square foot is essential before the council decides how much subsidy each buyer will get.
The council also has to determine whether or not to sell to developers land that’s too steep to build on for “affordable” housing.
Council member Jenn Bruno added that council members also need to understand just who will eventually buy these units.
“We need to be realistic about what we’re doing here,” Bruno said.
While public officials are discussing the big details now, they’ll need to make the decision about the initial work in just a couple of weeks. The council is scheduled to award the contract for street and utility work at its Jan. 19 meeting.
Before that, council members will take a field trip to Summit County next week to look at projects in Frisco and Breckenridge. Council members took essentially the same trip a couple of years ago, but there are four new members now. Moffet said he’s particularly interested in talking with the developer of Frisco’s Peak 1 project, which was still under construction during the council’s first trip.
Steve Lindstrom, Vail Housing Authority chairman, praised the council’s work Tuesday, with a couple of cautions, including the idea that Chamonix will be a good answer to the town’s long-term problem of losing families who move down valley.
“In the time we can build 50 units, we’ll probably have that many (in-town) sales,” Lindstrom said. Many of which will be to second-home owners.
Lindstrom added that somehow, town officials need to convince buyers of something no Vail home buyer has ever thought.
“We need to look at housing as shelter,” Lindstrom said. “We should sell this as something besides an investment opportunity.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com or @scottnmiller.