Dillon Crossroads hotel clears another hurdle, setting up final vote on town’s biggest project in decades
December 7, 2017
An ambitious hotel project at the entrance of Dillon cleared a key hurdle Wednesday night, winning unanimous approval from the town Planning and Zoning Commission and clearing the way for a final vote from the town council in January.
The five-story hotel, conference center and rooftop restaurant would be the first construction project in downtown Dillon in more than two decades, replacing the Conoco gas station at the entrance of town with a new structure that business owners hope would jumpstart the downtown economy.
The bold scope of the project, however, has drawn pushback from residents and homeowners, setting up the now-familiar battle over balancing Dillon's growth and re-development needs with the sleepy charm that attracted many to it in the first place.
The commission's approval after a lengthy public hearing puts the Crossroads at Lake Dillon Hotel, now five years in the making, one step away from a green light — but it's been here before.
The planning commission approved an earlier, significantly taller version of the hotel last year, but the Dillon Town Council balked in February over its 90-foot height. The new design lopped off the sixth story and squeezed other areas to get down to 58 feet, but it will still require town approval to go that high as part of a planned unit development. It would hold 103 rooms.
"We think we've come a long way here," said architect Ken O'Bryan during the hearing. "We think we've got this project just really nailed down. Quite honestly, in my opinion as an architect, it works better at five stories than it did at six anyway."
Dillon's core area, tucked away off Highway 6 and leading down to the marina, has struggled to attract investment since the sprawling Dillon Ridge Marketplace shopping center siphoned off much of the town's business in the 1990s.
Danny Eilts, the Crossroads' main developer and longtime Summit County businessman, said the Conoco gas station he owns at the project site saw three times as much business in the 1970s, before Dillon Ridge.
That area brings in the lion's share of Dillon's tax revenue, but town officials have been pushing hard to draw some investment in the core area, which is mainly a bedroom community of condos with few thriving businesses.
Part of that goal, formed years ago, is to spruce up both ends of town, at the corner of Highway 6 and Lake Dillon Drive and also around the Dillon Amphitheatre down by the water — the two "bookends" of town. A complete overhaul of the amphitheater is already underway, and town officials hope it will draw bigger acts to town.
"The far bookend is going through a wonderful re-development and there's a lot of promise down there," said Susan Fairweather, a Summit County native and former town employee. "What's remiss is the other bookend."
Longtime locals and business owners broadly back the proposal, saying they've waited decades to see a project like Crossroads come to Dillon.
"I think it's been pretty amazing to watch Dillon do nothing for the entire time I've been here and really stagnate, in my opinion, and not really get things going in a positive direction," said E.J. Olbright, who moved to the county in 1972. "You need a catalyst. You need to put a sign out that says Dillon wants to be better, Dillon can be better."
But some homeowners are lining up against the project, as they have with other efforts by the town to gin up development in the core area. Like Crossroads, the Dillon Amphitheater and the recently approved Dillon Flats condominiums drew criticism for their size, which some feared would block views, dampen property values and disrupt downtown Dillon's quiet.
"Attracting growth should not come at the expense of the town's character," homeowners Matthew and Emily Mulica wrote to the commission. "We believe that the proposed Crossroads development significantly alters the town of Dillon's character and is completely out of place here."
Mary Harmeyer, who along with her husband Jim has been a vocal critic of the project, urged the commission to at least delay its decision because it hadn't considered how the project would fit with the rest of town.
"I think the town does need a lot of re-development and energy and re-vitalization," she said. But "you have no idea how this building fits in, at 58 feet. … You have no idea how this will impact the community."
The Conoco property is zoned commercial, with a maximum building height of 40 feet, but the developers are seeking a PUD that would allow 58 feet and zero lot line setbacks. Both of those conditions would be in line with nearby core area-zoned properties.
That will require the approval of the Dillon Town Council, which will consider the issue at its Jan. 16 meeting.
Eilts and his partners said they would like to begin construction as quickly as possible if the council gives final approval, with the goal of opening next fall.
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