Not dead yet: Four-star hotel project in Breckenridge resurfaces
March 15, 2018
Discussions regarding a four-star luxury hotel at the base of Peak 8 resurfaced Tuesday night with Breckenridge Town Council revealing developers have rekindled talks after the council rejected the proposal last month.
One major change from the proposed development agreement they rejected, council members said, is that Vail Resorts has apparently reversed its position and is now willing to allow the extra density credits needed to make the hotel project work to come off one or more of its gondola parking lots.
Vail Resorts owns Breckenridge Ski Resort, and the resort-owned parking lots in town have a pool of unused density attached to them. Originally, developers had proposed buying $5.2 million worth of density, an unprecedented ask in terms of its scope, from the town and county's open space program and moving to the property at the base of Peak 8, known as the administration building.
In essence, the town and county utilize the open space program to buy undeveloped land in the backcountry, strip density off those properties and move it to other locations where up-scaled developments beyond what's generally allowed per town code might be more appropriate.
In the deal, Vail Resorts would sell the parcel of land at the base of Peak 8 to a two-pronged development team but manage the hotel through its subsidiary, RockResorts, once it's built.
Because Vail Resorts has the parking lots with unused density, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula had previously asked the development team to see if Vail Resorts would agree to shift the density rights off one or more of its lots to make the deal work.
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The response at the Feb. 27 council meeting suggested Vail Resorts was unwilling to do so, and council defeated the proposal when no one offered a motion, thus killing the development agreement without a vote.
The single biggest sticking point has been the historic density ask, which is tied to the more than 100,000 square feet of wholly owned condos that developers have maintained would have to come with the hotel. Additionally, the council has wrestled over the social impacts of the proposed project.
As the discussions unfolded Tuesday night, at least three council offered comments suggesting the proposal spearheaded as a joint venture by Breckenridge Grand Vacations and Miami-based Lionheart Capital still has life left in it.
Additionally, because Councilman Mike Dudick is the owner and CEO of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, he's had to recuse himself from all matters regarding the hotel deal. With five remaining council members and the mayor, there could be a path to the votes needed to pass the development agreement, but developers said they aren't counting any unhatched eggs at this point.
"I don't want to presume anything," Dudick said over the phone Thursday about possibly securing the votes to bring the project to fruition. "I want to do the hard work to make sure we earn the 'Yes' votes."
He said he "wholeheartedly" believes the hotel project deserves council's thumbs up, but reiterated he "wants to earn it."
Earning it could mean a number of different things. Councilman Mark Burke, whose term expires next month, and Jeffrey Bergeron remained opposed to the project and offered little in the way of anything that might change their minds.
Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence, however, has repeatedly been one of the most supportive of the project, saying she does believe the need for a four-star hotel exists in Breckenridge, but has not yet reached a place where she could favor the development agreement.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe has consistently been a staunch proponent for understanding the social impacts of the project, and she said she won't back a deal without concrete answers regarding its affect on traffic congestion, a substantial workforce-housing component and more community engagement.
Even though she's consistently opposed the project up to this point, Wolfe left the door open Tuesday, as she ran down a three-point list that could help win her support.
For the workforce-housing component, Wolfe said, it must be new housing, not some kind of agreement in which the developers purchase existing units and displace other workers in town. She said she thinks "all of the 20,000 square feet" floated in the previous proposal would be a good number.
Not convinced a traffic study performed at council's request has accurately forecast impacts on Ski Hill Road, Wolfe also wants a mechanism to ensure that stretch of road won't be further degraded by the development.
The study found that Ski Hill Road would see about 1,700 additional vehicle trips daily, but did not find those trips would be detrimental for the condition of the road. Wolfe, however, wants a guarantee.
She suggested the proposal would be more palatable, at least to her, if developers included a stipulation that a follow-up traffic study would be performed within two years of the hotel's opening. Should the follow-up find the road has degraded, Wolfe wants the developers to be on the hook to restore it to its current condition, calling such a plan "plugged-in accountability."
Wolfe's third line item was all about community outreach, and she said she would like more time for the community to "come up to speed" on the project. Open houses and newspaper articles could help get word out, as this is "a big project" and it's "important for the community to understand it."
The third possible yes vote might come from Councilwoman Erin Gigliello, who said she wants to vote for "a homerun."
Gigliello wasn't entirely sure what that homerun might look like, but she had two ideas, including Breckenridge Grand Vacations, not a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, having to manage the hotel or the town getting a long-sought parking garage on one of Vail Resorts' gondola lots out of the deal.
Over the phone Thursday, Dudick said the development team already has Gigliello's "homerun," but he wouldn't reveal what that might be. He would only say that, "We have one."
Vail Resorts did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.