VAIL - Fifty years after the first buildings were constructed in Vail, town officials are thinking about the next 50 years and whether they should impose regulations to protect the character of Vail Village.
The town is working with consultant Tom Braun, of Braun Associates, to answer this question: "As buildings in the village continue to redevelop or other changes occur in the village, are the town's current regulations, design standards and guidelines sufficient to ensure that the special character of Vail Village is not just maintained but also enhanced?"
Throughout the process, Braun said the goals and objectives of the initiative include identifying buildings, landmarks and other features that define or contribute to the village's character, specifically its Swiss alpine character. Braun and town staff, including Community Development director George Ruther, will look at current regulations in town and whether they accomplish the goal of sustaining the village's sense of place.
Ruther said Braun was chosen because of his work history and knowledge of Vail.
Braun presented to the town council Tuesday afternoon and showed images of four different buildings in four different ski resort villages. He challenged the council to identify which building went with which village. Nobody came up with the right answers.
"There are things unique about Vail Village ... places that create an environment that you know where you are," Braun said.
Floral murals on buildings, for example, set Vail Village apart from other Western ski resort villages. Braun said he used to take offense when he heard people criticize Vail for not being a real town or for being a "fake Bavarian village." He's gotten over it, though.
"We're 50 years old - we've earned the right to be a place," Braun said. "We can keep it the way we want it to be."
Council members reacted mostly positively, although some cautioned not to impose unnecessary or more restrictive regulations.
Councilwoman Margaret Rogers said she thinks the town should figure out a way to somehow compensate property owners for restrictions the town might impose, while Councilman Greg Moffet said the rules on the south side of Gore Creek - the core of the village - "have been pretty stringent forever."
"I don't anticipate making things more restrictive," Moffet said. " ... We've always been very consistent that once you get on the south side of Gore Creek, the rules are different. My first reaction, Tom (Braun), is that (the process) ain't broke."
Councilwoman Kerry Donovan also questioned the rules, but she asked whether town rules and regulations are truly the source of the village's character or if it has been the work of the individual owners, designers and developers. Was it luck, or was it the town's regulations, Donovan asked.
The council directed Ruther and Braun to continue to work on the initiative, and they'll take some of the council's feedback with them as they move forward. Ruther said they'll also report back to the council periodically and will be able to make adjustments based on council feedback throughout the process.
"I would caution ourselves to not be so locked into what we have at the moment that we can't look at new and exciting and interesting things," Mayor Pro Tem Ludwig Kurz said.