Wolcott winery could transform area | VailDaily.com

Wolcott winery could transform area

Special to the DailyThe developers of the Vines at Vail project, above, want to put a winery, lodge and housing on this 39-acre property on the north side of the Eagle River at Wolcott. Neighbors of the property are the Gallegos Corporation, which is on the southwest corner of the property, and Waste Management, just to the north of the Gallegos office.

EAGLE ” Wine could transform Wolcott.

Patrick Chirichillo is a wine enthusiast. For the past few years he and others have been making wine at 4Eagle Ranch north of Wolcott.

That love of fermented grapes has led to an ambitious proposal for property right at Wolcott called the Vines at Vail.

A plan for the Vines at Vail was worked over for the first time Tuesday by the Eagle County Commissioners. Following Tuesday’s nearly five-hour hearing, the project is probably in for at least a couple more lengthy meetings.

The proposed winery and lodge didn’t get much attention at Tuesday’s hearing, and area residents who have submitted comments to the county have all wrote and spoken in support of it.

“I think it’s a wonderful project,” said Robert Howard of Singletree. “It’s the kind of diversified destination that will bring business to the county. I think it will be a wonderful, visionary addition.”

Howard’s comments were typical of those heard Tuesday.

But most of the discussion by the commissioners focused on housing and water.

Here’s a look at the high points:

The Vines at Vail plan includes what the developer calls a “live-work” townhome complex. “This could be the best idea I’ve ever heard in real estate,” Chirichillo said.

At the Vines at Vail, the idea is to have storefronts on the first floor of a plaza area, with townhomes and office space above the storefronts.

One of the things Chirichillo and the commissioners will need to hash out is just how those units will be sold.

Chirichillo wants to sell the storefronts and the 30 townhomes separately. Commissioner Peter Runyon said selling the storefronts and townhomes together would prevent the units from being sold to second-home owners.

“It seems like many second-home owners would buy the top space and leave the bottom,” Runyon said. “If you linked the space, it would prevent that.”

But, Chirichillo said, it’s going to be harder to sell units that way.

Some kind of compromise is likely, since Chirichillo and the commissioners apparently need to find a way to compromise on employee housing units at the project.

The current Vines at Vail proposal includes 18 units of either rental housing or deed-restricted for-sale homes. That leaves the project short, according to the county’s formula that requires developers of business space to include employee housing.

Chirichillo asked if the “live/work” units could count as employee housing. Runyon said that won’t happen unless at least some of the work/home space is sold together.

The project is a big one, at least by Wolcott standards. But what may bring the biggest change to Wolcott is water.

Chirichillo’s company and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District have a contract for the water district to provide water and sewer service to the project. The district intends to build a 400,000 gallon water storage tank on Bureau of Land Management property to the north of the property.

That tank will allow the district to bring water and sewer service to existing and new homes and businesses at Wolcott.

“Our well is 925 feet deep and the water is still bad,” said Bob Gallegos, one of the owners of the Gallegos Corporation, which has its offices next door to the Vines at Vail property. “We’re really excited to have this opportunity.”

But Runyon and fellow Commissioner Arn Menconi ” Commissioner Tom Stone was out of town ” both worried that the size of the water tank might lead to even more development at Wolcott.

Tom Zancanella, a water engineer working for Chirichillo, said that won’t happen, since the proposed water system is limited to provide service to 100 average-sized homes. Much of that capacity will be used for the winery, lodge and housing.

“The tank capacity is where it ends,” Zancanella said. “There’s no capacity to treat water beyond what’s been applied for here.”

While Chirichillo faces at least a few more meetings, Sid Fox, the planner designing the project, said the first meeting with the commissioners, while long, was encouraging.

“I think it was positive in terms of general ideas,” Fox said.

And Menconi said the commissioners and the developer may actually be close to common ground on the project.

“It’s an intriguing and exciting vision,” Menconi said. “I want it to be as good as possible, and that may take some time.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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