Our View: Chamonix neighborhood lottery a milestone for town of Vail
May 3, 2017
This is a big week for the town of Vail. This evening, the town will hold a drawing to pick the first buyers of 32 townhomes in the new Chamonix neighborhood in West Vail.
Lottery night has been a long time coming. The town bought the 3.6-acre site in 2002 for $2 million, a good price even then.
It's taken a long time to decide what to do with that parcel, especially since it's realistically the only place left in town to create a from-scratch neighborhood.
Getting to this plan for 32 townhomes — with the first move-ins coming late this year — has also taken a number of twists and turns. The first thought was to build high-density housing. That idea has evolved into a neighborhood intended to draw people in as buyers and then keep those buyers in Vail for the long term, allowing owners to raise their families here.
That idea required town officials to reject the most obvious use of the property — putting as many units as possible on the site, even if those units were sold, not rented.
While there's an obvious need for unit numbers up and down the valley, Vail Town Council members decided Chamonix needs to be something a different — long-term homes, not stepping stones to other, bigger units as families grew or grew up. The problem with the stepping-stone idea, town leaders decided, is that having people who move in, and then move on, doesn't keep people in town. The decision was made that keeping fewer families in town for years, if not decades, is more valuable to maintaining a community.
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If the neighborhood works as intended, then you'll see a number of the town's future leaders — people who serve on parent groups, volunteer boards and, possibly, elected offices — living in those 32 townhomes just behind the West Vail fire station.
That process starts tonight.
It's been an expensive journey. Recent estimates put the town's investment in the project at $17.5 million — most of which will be returned via unit sales.
Chamonix also represents something of a risk for the town. The largest units are priced at near and more than $700,000. That's a lot to ask for a unit that's appreciation-capped over time. But, the thinking goes, people will be willing to give up appreciation potential — and some other amenities, such as private yards — in exchange for the opportunity to live in Vail. That means living near the heart of the valley's entertainment life, close to jobs and without the hassles of getting to and from anything from ski school to a Hot Summer Nights concert.
As this is written, the buyer lottery is still several hours away. But looking at the number of applicants for units, this could be the most sought-after opportunity in the valley for a long time to come.
Here's hoping this experiment succeeds.
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