Breckenridge Grand Vacations development approved for final planning commission hearing

A rendering illustrates plans for the development of the North Gondola and Gold Rush lots in Breckenridge. The master plan for the proposed Breckenridge Grand Vacations development was approved Tuesday, Sept. 21, for a final hearing with the Breckenridge Planning Commission.
Breckenridge Planning Commission packet/Courtesy rendering

After its third preliminary hearing, the master plan for the proposed Breckenridge Grand Vacations development on the Gold Rush and North Gondola lots will move on to a final hearing with the Breckenridge Planning Commission.

Members of the Planning Commission commended Breckenridge Grand Vacations CEO and co-owner Mike Dudick for listening to and addressing the concerns expressed in previous hearings.

While the Planning Commission was split on several matters at the most recent hearing in July, the commission was overall supportive of the project and the changes made this time around. In particular, commissioners generally understood a proposed gondola to move pedestrians from the parking garage to the BreckConnect Gondola as the best option for pedestrian safety despite initially being wary of the plan.

During the meeting, the commissioners and the applicant discussed the point system for reviewing development applications. Town staff and Planning Commission award positive points for aspects of planning projects that contribute to town goals and negative points for those against town goals or code.

As presented by town staff, the master plan passed with a score of seven — which is the same score as the last hearing — though Dudick argued during his presentation that the development deserves more points for certain aspects.

Dudick asked that the commissioners consider an additional three points in terms of internal circulation because the development includes several means of smooth pedestrian travel across the property. He also asked that an additional two points be considered for transit due to the gondola providing safe pedestrian travel, noting that the BreckConnect Gondola received eight points total from the commission.

Dudick presented a video showing how dangerous the intersection of North Park Avenue and North French Street can be due to its constant jaywalking and said the development’s mitigation plans for this deserve more recognition.

“The life safety issues that currently exist today at the intersection of French and Park are meritorious not of six points but eight,” Dudick said. “The amount of money we spend to build a gondola … is peanuts if someone gets run over on Park Avenue. It’s meaningless. We shouldn’t be worrying about how much money developers spend to fix something if the magnitude of the solution is one that saves somebody’s life.”

The master plan for the proposed Breckenridge Grand Vacations development was approved for a final hearing after its third preliminary hearing with the Breckenridge Planning Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 21.
Breckenridge Planning Commission packet/Courtesy rendering

In addition to the gondola, Breckenridge Grand Vacations would build a roundabout at the intersection and stripe it with pedestrian crosswalks. The development company is also proposing a fenced-in sidewalk on the west side of North Park Avenue so pedestrians already on that side of the road don’t need to cross multiple times to access a sidewalk.

The commission encouraged Dudick to make his case for a total of six points for internal circulation at the final hearing. Commissioners were also generally supportive of exempting the gondola terminal from receiving negative points for height since it is a utility — so long as they are in their rights to grant an exemption.

At the previous hearing, commissioners expressed concerns about the amount of parking proposed for the townhome portion of the project, so the applicant took it down from 46 to 27 parking spaces.

The applicant also addressed concerns about architecture and design of the buildings, decreasing the amount of unnatural materials proposed from 75% to 50%. Commissioners and the applicant agreed that a work session on building materials could be beneficial.

“We, too, want to see you give this a sense of place and really look and feel like Breckenridge and be compatible with the rich, architectural character that’s here,” Commissioner Mike Giller said.

One concern expressed by commissioner Steve Gerard was about the possibility of flat roofs and outdoor decks mentioned in the master plan. He said given recent town concerns with rooftop and outdoor decks, he is not comfortable with that language at the master plan level.

Another new element of the proposal is a backup plan for when weather impacts the gondola. Dudick said Breckenridge Grand Vacations will be purchasing electric buses for the purpose of moving folks across the street in the event of a shutdown, but when asked by the commission, he said they would consider using the buses for other uses, too. There are now two bus pull-off stations included in the master plan.

“I’m not the kind of guy to park money and look at it, so if there’s an opportunity with our owners or just to be a team player in the community to use those things, then yeah we’re up for doing that as long as it’s reasonable,” Dudick said.

Breckenridge Grand Vacations will also dedicate 4 acres of wetlands on the South Gold Rush Lot property to Breckenridge Open Space and Trails, protecting it from future development.

Dudick was receptive to all of the commission’s questions and concerns, noting that the town is a key partner in making the project happen. He also applauded the rigorous planning process.

“My experience in all the times that we’ve done this is that we always end up with a better project because of the input and feedback from the planning commission and staff … ” Dudick said. “There’s not an instance where I could say that was a waste of time.”

During public comment, Del Nordstrom, president of The Woods at Breckenridge Homeowners Association, asked the town to mitigate the possibility of skiers going through The Woods neighborhood to get back to the parking garage. After Commissioner Allen Frechter requested staff consider putting a fence or gate there, senior planner Chris Kulich said it is a public trail that leads to a public road, meaning there isn’t much the town can do.

At the previous hearing, Commissioner Christie Mathews-Leidal was vocal about her concerns with the development, but she has since resigned from the Planning Commission, citing personal reasons. The remaining six commissioners approved the decision Tuesday to move to a final hearing.

“I think it’s going to be a beautiful project once it’s done,” Commissioner Tanya Delahoz said. “I’ve never seen anything that (Breckenridge Grand Vacations) has done that hasn’t worked with the town. … You build a good product, and I appreciate that. And I know that you want what’s best for the town and something really good for the community.”

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