Housing deal allows for Arrabelle opening
VAIL – Vail Resorts will have a few more months to figure out how it’s going to build the 120 beds of worker housing it promised for the Arrabelle at Vail Square.In the meantime, the housing requirement won’t stop the $250 million Arrabelle from opening as long as Vail Resorts puts up a $17.3 million letter of credit.Still, Vail Town Council members pushed for the housing to be built as quickly as possible at a meeting Tuesday, where they approved the new agreement.”The shortage of housing issue is so critical,” said Councilwoman Margaret Rogers.Under the town’s interpretation of a 2004 agreement, the Arrabelle couldn’t open without an affordable-housing plan.The stores in the Arrabelle – a huge complex billed as the centerpiece of the aging Lionshead ski village renewal – are set to open later this month. Starbucks, Quiksilver, Vail Sports, Patagonia and Haagen-Dazs are slated to be in the building. The hotel, which perhaps will be Vail’s most opulent, is supposed to open next month.Now, Vail Resorts has until Feb. 25 to come up with a plan for the housing. Council members have said they want the housing built on the North Day Lot, a Vail Resorts-owned parking lot near the Landmark Condominiums. But Vail Resort CEO Rob Katz said Tuesday that parking lot has “issues.””We have consistently maintained that that’s a very challenging site,” he said. “We think it’s a challenging site to do anything on.”Katz said it would be easier to build the housing across the interstate at the Solar Vail site, in conjunction with an employee-housing project proposed by the Sonnenalp Resort. Neighbors would object to the project on the North Day Lot, he said.”It’s forcing us into a battle,” Katz said.”I’m confused now why you don’t want to do it,” Mayor Dick Cleveland said. “It was your idea.”Katz disagreed, saying it was the town’s idea. He added that Vail Resorts wasn’t given the option to buy homes and place “deed restrictions” on them that ensure only local workers will live there. That’s a method other developers can use to create employee housing.”We could have solved this problem a long time ago if we were given the same option every other developer in this town has,” Katz said.Nonetheless, Katz zeroed in on the Solar Vail site.”(Sonnenalp owner Johannes Faessler) is looking for someone to be a partner,” Katz said.Councilman Kevin Foley said the housing shouldn’t be across the interstate. “Lionshead,” he said. “It needs to be in Lionshead.”Other council members said they’d consider a proposal that offers the housing somewhere besides Lionshead.The agreement was approved, 4-1. Foley, the dissenter, said the town should stick with the original, 2004 agreement.Under the new plan, Vail Resorts would have to start the housing project by May 1, 2009. The town could cash the $17.3 million letter of credit if Vail Resorts doesn’t live up to its housing promises.
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