Breckenridge Grand Vacations development to go through 3rd preliminary hearing
Planning commission was supportive of project but wants more clarity in master plan
Breckenridge Grand Vacations will go to a third preliminary hearing for the North Gondola and Gold Rush lot master plan after the Breckenridge Planning Commission had more questions and concerns about the development.
Despite concerns, commissioners were insistent that they support the project and wouldn’t want any group other than Breckenridge Grand Vacations to take it on because it will have such a large impact on the community.
The biggest concern from the commissioners was pedestrian safety and traffic interruptions on North Park Avenue. Several commissioners were skeptical of the estimation that 95% of folks would use the gondola to cross the street instead of walking.
Chris Kulick, senior planner with the town, presented modifications made since the April 20 preliminary hearing, addressing concerns and questions from the planning commission.
“I think that this issue in particular — maximizing safety of the pedestrian along with not doing anything unnecessary to degrade traffic in the area — has probably been the one item between the discussions with the town and applicants we spent the most time,” Kulick said.
Commissioners questioned why other solutions, such as a pedestrian walkway over the highway or an underground tunnel were ruled out. Kulick said the town reviewed every possibility but that pedestrian walkways would be difficult to construct based on the location of the parking garage.
Kulick added that a walkway from the parking garage to the BreckConnect gondola station is about a half-mile walk and that the gondola will transport folks quicker than they could move walking.
Bill Campie with DTJ Design presented to the commission on behalf of the applicant. He said there is a lot of precedent of gondolas being used to move people outside of ski environments, prompting the commission to ask for more information.
Campie also assured the commission that the gondola would be free to the public and wouldn’t require a lift ticket. He and Kulick said they are still outlining mitigation plans for gondola shutdowns and creating a service schedule based on need.
The commissioners also 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, though planning commission disputed many of the point allocations.
Commissioners Christie Mathews-Leidal and Steve Gerard questioned why positive points were awarded for solutions to self-created issues from the development, such as the roundabout and the gondola.
Gerard said he believes town staff’s recommendation that the gondola will likely be the best solution, though.
The change commissioners supported most is the plan for Breckenridge Grand Vacations to dedicate 4 acres of the wetland area south of the development to the town. Commissioners also liked the idea of including a public park in the gondola plaza but would like further reassurance that it would be more than just a grass and cement lot.
Another concern came from the amount of parking planned for the townhome portion of the project, which allotted parking more than double what is required.
“I think if you’re going to show it on the master plan, that means we’re approving it,” Mathews-Leidal said. “I believe it’s excessive. It’s more than twice necessary, and negative points should be awarded. …”
Overall the commission was concerned that certain aspects of the project are being outlined in the master plan when they are more suited for development permits later on.
This concern came up specifically relating to architecture and design of the buildings. The language in the master plan reads that up to 75% of facade can be brick or non-natural materials. The commission was not so much concerned with the use of brick as they were with the language in the master plan, which they believe leaves the possibility of future buildings being mostly non-natural.
“The word choice in the master plan becomes the controlling development document,” Mathews-Leidal said. “I don’t think 75% non-natural materials are appropriate in town, let alone adjacent to the historic district.”
Gerard said this is a matter that should be considered in the development permit process and would give too much leverage should it be approved at the master plan level.
Campie said the applicant’s goal for the meeting was to get as much feedback as possible from the planning commission and that the applicant would be happy to further define and clarify language in the document.
“We’ve tried to create language that we all can agree upon in the sense of the goal …” Campie said. “We have high aspirations for what we put here.”
Del Nordstrom, president of The Woods at Breckenridge Homeowners Association, spoke against the project during public comment. He expressed concern about the parking structure and gondola, adding that they will bring major interruptions to the Woods Drive neighborhood since this road is the main access point to the garage.
Commission chair Jay Beckerman said while Breckenridge Grand Vacations has always been a great partner, the commission still has to treat the master plan as it would an application from any other corporation or company, being careful on how certain aspects will be addressed.
“We want to create a different environment here but also pay homage to what’s been done in Breckenridge, and that’s always been the intent all along,” Campie said.
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