Dillon Town Council clears way for controversial, five-story condo after packed hearing
August 16, 2017
The Dillon Town Council unanimously cleared the way for a five-story condominium building in downtown Dillon on Tuesday night amid the objections of many in the packed council chambers, who argued the building would be too big and even threatened a class-action lawsuit.
The proposed building, known as Dillon Flats, will be the first installment of a larger project consisting of 48 residential units, 12 of which will be reserved for year-round Summit County workers.
The town has agreed to sell the first lot for the project, which will house a 58-foot building with 24 units on East LaBonte Street, for $783,000.
The current town council has taken an active approach to development that has sometimes run afoul of homeowners, many of whom guard Dillon's sleepier atmosphere and see it as a refuge from the bustle of other ski towns.
The last time a meeting was so heated, for instance, was when the town approved an amphitheater overhaul project that some said was too big.
In approving Dillon Flats, council members argued it would help address the county's severe housing crunch while jumpstarting development in downtown Dillon, which hasn't seen a new building in more than 20 years.
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Many homeowners, however, were not convinced, arguing on Tuesday and at a public meeting last Wednesday that the building would wreck Dillon's small-town feel, block mountain views and fail to attract more investment.
"I don't think this is the best business strategy for the town core area," said second-home owner Robert Winstead. "It's not an attractive and appealing place for people to spend time if you build up to that height — not in our communities."
Winstead said he had collected 610 signatures at the farmers market on Friday from people who opposed the idea after hearing him describe it. Of those, 147 were from Dillon, 133 from the rest of Summit County and 330 from elsewhere.
"Never having done this before, my reaction was, 'This is almost too easy,'" he said.
Several homeowners said on Tuesday night that they had bought in Dillon precisely because it was less crowded with buildings and carried a unique "anti-Vail" charm.
"I think tall buildings make sense in the ski villages: they're up against the mountain, they're trying to really increase the density," said homeowner Linda Daley. "But I think when you walk through them, you feel like you're in New York City."
Others thought the project felt rushed and urged council to slow down and look for other alternatives. But to hear Mayor Kevin Burns tell it, the town-owned lots are a case study for how difficult it's been to entice development in Dillon.
The town council first tried to use the lots in 2015 by soliciting proposals for mixed-use development, but they got no response, Burns said. They unsuccessfully tried to court the Lake Dillon Theatre Company, and were then rebuffed by Colorado Mountain College after a year-and-a-half of negotiations, he said.
At one point during Tuesday's hearing, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman turned and asked the roughly 45 people present for a show of hands for who supported the project. About three raised them.
Towards the end of the evening, though, they found their voices. Jason Dietz, executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, threw his organization's support behind the development, citing the worst housing crisis in the county's history.
Tristan Toney, who lives in Frisco and conceded he wouldn't be impacted by the project, argued that the not-in-my-backyard attitude was having a chilling affect on housing construction.
"If every time a new building needs to come up and people are saying, 'Hey, put it somewhere else,' how much more does that add to the burden of the people who are renting in this community?" he asked. "When we stifle development, we increase the cost of housing."
In their comments before the vote, council members said the smaller, two-story buildings that residents were arguing for wouldn't cut it. The way to effectively increase the housing stock and revitalize downtown, they argued, was with density.
"The town core is not improving as far as retail and commercial goes, and we need more housing," councilman Kyle Hendricks said.
The unanimous vote to let the project go forward was met with groaning and sighs, and the crowd shuffled out as the meeting returned to its typical, uneventful form.
On Wednesday, Rabbi Schwartzman lamented losing the Buffalo Mountain views he looks out upon as he writes sermons for the High Holidays. The town of Dillon will be forever changed by the project, he said, and he didn't know if he'd be sticking around for it.
"I have consulted with a real estate agent," he said. "I am really very disappointed. Frankly, I think the whole thing is ill-advised."