Breckenridge leaders ‘work’ developers before clearing way for luxury hotel at base of Peak 8
The developers seeking to build a four-star hotel along with 50 condominiums at the base of Peak 8 had wanted a 7-0 vote from Breckenridge Town Council on a proposed development agreement with the town. But on Tuesday, they had to settle for passage on first reading with a 6-0 count. The seventh voting council member, Elisabeth Lawrence, elected to support her partner, Ryne Scholl, in his successful bid to win the Democratic primary for county treasurer instead of attending the meeting.
Had Lawrence been there, the developers would have gotten the seventh vote. Earlier in the day during a work session meeting, which Lawrence did attend, she offered her support for the proposal that both developers and town council say sets a new standard for large-scale projects in Breckenridge.
“I do think it raises the bar and sets a new precedent,” said Councilwoman Erin Gigliello, echoing the statements of other council members. “I think if we did have this kind of agreement with every development, we wouldn’t be facing the housing challenges we are right now.”
She was referencing the developers’ promise to bring new workforce housing to town with the project, one of a number of public benefits that helped sweeten the deal and earn council’s overwhelming support.
The biggest hangup had been an issue of size. Developers have said there’s enough room on the parcel of land at the base of Peak 8, where the Vail Resorts administration building currently sits, to build a 300-room hotel, but they wanted to “finish Peak 8 the right way,” which for them meant building fewer rooms at a bigger size. The condos, they said, were necessary components to make the project financially viable.
Even Councilman Jeffrey Bergergon, who other council members agree has been the most outspoken critic among them regarding large-scale developments, found himself ready to offer a motion to approve the development agreement Tuesday, a far cry from last February when the developers’ first proposed agreement failed without a vote.
“I’ve been chaining myself to bulldozers for 40 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever made a motion to support a project,” Bergeron said. “This is my first one and I think this is going to be good for the community.”
Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe had been one of the strongest advocates for understanding and mitigating the social impacts the project. Shortly after the developers’ first attempt failed, she laid out three specific line items they needed to do to win her support: The inclusion of new workforce housing, controls to limit traffic impacts on Ski Hill Road, fully vetting the project in the community.
“(Breckenridge Grand Vacations) brought out everyone that could talk to the project and talk to the community as long as the community wanted to talk to them,” Wolfe said in reference to two recent open houses and the developers’ other outreach efforts regarding the project.
“And that’s Breckenridge. That’s how we do it here,” Wolfe continued. “I was proud to watch that process. I was proud to be a part of that process and I am so happy now to support this project.”
At one point during the meeting Mayor Eric Mamula asked for a show of hands from everyone in the gallery who was there to support the hotel. Many went up. Mamula also backed the project with Vail Resorts agreeing to allow the extra density for the Peak 8 project to come off the resort-owned gondola parking lots in town.
With council passing the development agreement on first reading, a special notice will go out alerting people to a public hearing before the development agreement comes up on second reading at the next council meeting on July 10.
Assuming it passes on second reading, the development team of the local timeshare company BGV and the Miami-based real estate investment firm Lionheart Capital will still have to adhere to town code as designs and blueprints are finalized. Also, the project must be approved by the town’s planning commission. That’s not expected to be a problem with a development agreement allowing the shift of density,
“With all humility and having gone through this process for the better part of a year, I appreciate where we landed with this because I think it’s in a really good place,” said BGV CEO Michael Dudick. “I love Breckenridge. I’m 30 years deep, and I want to do the right thing … I think that what BGV and Lionheart is doing is setting a new bar for how you go about having a negotiation with the town.”
It took the developers multiple attempts to secure passage of the agreement, and town council repeatedly made them adjust the proposal to the town’s liking since the deal first emerged last fall. In the end, both the developers and council said they felt good about it.
“None of us took this lightly,” Bergeron said of council’s efforts. “I think we all did our due diligence. It was good government, and we really kind of worked Michael.”
In other business
Council unanimously approved, on second reading, a development agreement with M.K. Development Corporation, in which the town will give the developer land next to the developer’s plot in exchange for building a minimum of 16 new apartments that will be rent- and employment-restricted. The developer must also make all 32 units subject to a restrictive housing covenant that prohibits any rental, occupancy or lease for a term less than three consecutive months and prohibits the apartments from being converted into condominiums or other forms of real estate ownership for individual sale.
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