KRED’s seeking lot, opponents say
KEYSTONE – After years of controversy, Keystone developers have dropped plans to build on a parcel opponents say is too close to a critical wildlife migration corridor.
But despite the concession, affected nearby homeowners and Snake River Planning Commission members still are skeptical. Keystone Real Estate Developments (KRED) is asking the planning commission to approve a 650-space parking lot, transfers of density and density bonuses in exchange for giving up the controversial project.
“In a compromise, nobody gets everything they want,” KRED manager of planning Thomas Davidson said at Thursday’s standing-room-only planning commission meeting at Dillon’s town hall. “But we’ve tried to make changes to this proposal in the spirit of the Snake River Master Plan.”
KRED offered to dedicate Parcel A – also known as Tract D – as open space during Thursday’s meeting. Davidson said KRED executives are exploring ways to give the public assurance the land would stay undeveloped, including discussions with the county’s open space staff.
KRED, the Keystone development company that pairs Vail Resorts with Intrawest, proposed building 21 and later four residential lots on a 16-acre parcel between Keystone and Montezuma. Environmentalists and concerned citizens said the project – known as Settlers Creek and Ski Tip South – was dangerously close to a four-mile-long wildlife migration corridor, and would threaten the migration patterns of species including lynx, moose, mountain lions and elk, among others.
The corridor is hypothesized to allow north-south migration along the Continental Divide below the alpine tundra of the range’s peaks. The U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and independent biologists have studied the area, but no definitive proof of its environmental role has been established. It is one of five such areas identified in Colorado.
The idea of 21 homes there was rejected by the Summit Board of County Commissioners in July. In November, Snake River Planning Commissioners denounced the prospect of four home sites in the same area.
The dedication of Parcel A as open space doesn’t come without some expectations on KRED’s part. In exchange for giving up the use of Parcel A, the company wants permission to build a skier parking lot on Montezuma Road. Originally proposed as an 850-space facility, it’s been scaled back to 650.
The parking lot, which KRED argued is permitted under Keystone Resort’s PUD (planned unit development), drew the greatest criticism from homeowners.
“The residents of Trapper’s Crossing (a complex of townhomes east of Ski Tip) are unanimously opposed to this parking lot,” said Alan Kortz. “Furthermore, it represents a violation of trust on the part of KRED and all their representatives who told us this area was unique because of its natural environment and being far from traffic. This is not the neighborhood we bought our homes in.”
Kortz’s comments drew applause from the audience and other representatives from homeowners’ associations and Montezuma residents echoed his concerns.
KRED plans also call for transferring the 22 units of density off Parcel A to other areas within the resort. Fifteen units are proposed for an area along Montezuma Road near Hunki Dori Court, another eight to a property eventually planned as the base area of another ski lift.
Parcel C is a planned development at the base of what KRED hopes someday will be a third access point and lift to the ski area, in addition to the already existing Mountain House and River Run ski area portals. Keystone is currently working with the Forest Service to put together a proposal there that would include the ski lift, trails and snowmaking.
KRED also wants an additional 55 units of equivalent residential density, a method of measuring residences that includes condominiums as well as single-family residences. It roughly equals 22 single-family homes. Davidson said KRED wants to bank that density for eventual use elsewhere in the resort. The density transfer plans also include moving intended employee housing to the Wintergreen neighborhood at the west end of the resort, a feature which created concerns as well because it would decrease diversity of residents in the Ski Tip neighborhood.
When Parcel A was denied last year, KRED officials say county staff suggested the company receive a density bonus if it moved its development plans elsewhere. Many at Thursday’s meeting found fault with KRED’s math in calculating the density transfer and questioned whether the company should receive a bonus.
“I’m not the brightest guy, but I still don’t get it,” said planning commissioner Ed Hood. “It seems more economically advantageous for you, and I’m not convinced you should be rewarded with density for giving up a project that you can’t build on in the first place.”
Also included in Thursday’s proposal are plans for KRED to partner with the county to rebuild a portion of Montezuma Road from Hunki Dori Court to east of Independence Road, realign the bike path along Montezuma Road to eliminate two road crossings and add landscaping to screen the parking lot and to provide a buffer between the road and the bike path.
Montezuma resident Steve Hornback applauded KRED for giving up on Parcel A and offering to take part in rebuilding Montezuma Road, but reiterated concerns about traffic headed for a parking lot in the neighborhood.
“I’m a dad, and at 8:15 in the morning, I’m coming down that road to take my kids to school,” Hornback said. “With 550 cars turning left in front of me, I think they’re creating an unsafe condition and I see that as an attack on my family.”
KRED spokeswoman Leslie Robbins said the partnership would meet to discuss the feedback from the meeting, but could not say if the proposal would look different when it comes before the planning commission May 16. Robbins said KRED staff and consultants spent a lot of time producing what they feel is “a very good application and an exciting project.”
“We recognize the specific objections of a targeted group of vocal people,” Robbins said. “But we really feel there’s more broad-based support than there is opposition. This compromise was developed with input of a multitude of stakeholders and includes many community benefits.”
If the plans are approved in May, they’ll head to the Board of County Commissioners in June.
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