Breckenridge Town Council stalls luxury hotel vote instead of sinking it
If Breckenridge Town Council had voted Tuesday night on a development agreement for a 150-key, four-star hotel at the base of Peak 8, the proposal would have failed.
At the mayor’s suggestion, the developers opted not to force the issue and instead sought a continuance. Not entirely against the idea, council went 5-1 to hold off giving the agreement an up or down vote.
Only Jeffrey Bergeron sided against tabling the vote until the next council meeting on Feb. 6.
“If we were to vote on this, I don’t know what we’re voting for,” Councilwoman Erin Gigliello said, echoing comments made by other elected officials. “That’s what I’m struggling with is I can’t vote yes unless I have these answers. It’s just not there because I don’t have the information.”
Pursuing the project, the local time-share company Breckenridge Grand Vacations is working in a partnership with the Miami-based firm Lionheart Capital to bring a branded, four-star hotel, along with 110,000 square feet of wholly owned condos, to the base of Peak 8. The development would be adjacent to One Ski Hill Place, on land currently owned by Vail Resorts, parent company of Breckenridge Ski Resort.
“This is not a tri-party joint venture,” said Nick Doran, chief operating officer at BGV, trying to clear up some confusion regarding the ownership structure. “I want to make that clear. There’s no smoke and mirrors here.”
Councilman Mike Dudick, who’s co-owner and chief executive officer for BGV, recused himself from the discussions, as he has consistently done while the proposal works its way through council.
Still, the remaining council members openly wondered why Vail Resorts has been noticeably absent from the discussions, and Mark Burke maintained they are a major player in this deal.
In addition to ownership, council members also expressed concerns over the described staffing levels at the hotel, and the impact those additional employees could have on things like traffic, parking and housing.
“However many employees it is … all of those employees have to park somewhere in town to get to work,” Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe told the developers.
One key piece of the proposed agreement is that the developers are looking for 60 additional residential and two commercial units of transferrable density rights to add to existing density rights already associated with the site. The ask is historic in its scope, but it’s more about condos that would have come with the hotel than it is the hotel itself, which alone could meet the existing density rights but isn’t workable without the condos, the developers said.
“If this additional density is not approved, the hotel is not economically viable,” Doran explained. “It’s very simple from that standpoint.”
The development agreement also sought a small reduction in the number of required parking spaces for the hotel, but if that was a hang-up, the developers were willing to forgo the request.
Addressing council, BGV’s director of development Graham Frank and Doran said the company’s gone “above and beyond” trying to detail this project to the town’s needs, and they pushed council to approve the agreement on first reading Tuesday with the understanding the proposal would be revised to address any lingering concerns before coming to a vote on second reading.
At one point, Councilman Mark Burke asked the developers, in effect, what’s the rush? In response, they cited a tight timetable, numerous governmental hoops they still have to clear and their hopes of breaking ground by spring 2019. The developers also said they were hoping to get the document approved so they could push through the process because, like the town, they too are “at a decision point.”
Asked about the public benefit of the project, the developers said that, in addition to new jobs, more employee housing, completing the development at the base of Peak 8 and providing lodging accommodations unlike anything that currently exists here, they’re are also offering $125,000 for the continued preservation of Cucumber Gulch or some other public benefit to be determined by the town.
“From there, I think it really raises the bar and tells the nation, the world, whoever our guests are that Breckenridge is a four-star destination,” Doran said. “And if we forgo this opportunity, conversely it tells everybody Breckenridge is not a four-star location.”
The developers also said they feel as if they’ve gone “above and beyond,” doing everything they can do to answer council’s questions, comments or concerns about the project as it continues to take shape. Additionally, with the general consensus of town planners and the town’s planning commission, the project fits on the site, they added.
But council still wondered if it would fit the town, and late in the meeting, Mamula told them, “with six people on, you need four affirmative votes or it fails. I’m counting 3-3 right now.”
Based on council’s comments, it might have been even more skewed against the developers.
“If we do a good-faith vote, the camel’s nose is in the tent, and it becomes harder to say no on the second round,” Wolfe said. “I want the answers first, please.”
In other business:
• An emergency ordinance canceling April’s election was approved. With three people running for three seats, they’re running unopposed. Based on discussions, the town can save about $8,000 to $10,000 by avoiding a ballot. The three people who filed to run in the election are incumbents Elisabeth Lawrence and Erin Gigliello, as well as Gary Gallagher.
• Settling on the new handle at a Jan. 9 work session, council approved changing Oxbow Park’s name to River Park on first reading.
• Council voted in favor of a handful of easements tied to the construction of a new water plant and Summit Public Radio and TV’s efforts to replace aging equipment on Bald Mountain.
• Council approved an ordinance on second reading authorizing the sale of town-owned land at 34 Sheppard Circle, Breckenridge, for $630,000, subject to normal closing adjustments.
• Council unanimously approved a pay hike for the next mayor and town council members elected on or after April 3 on second reading. One man spoke out against the raises while two others offered comments in support of them. The raises are the first adjustments in a decade, and given that Lawrence and Gigliello are virtually guaranteed re-election, they recused themselves from the vote on second reading. Also, Dudick stated “for the record” that he donates 100 percent of his council salary to The Summit Foundation.
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