River Run gondola plans move to BOCC
DILLON – Vail Resorts passed one hurdle Thursday night in its attempt to move the River Run gondola terminal to the north side of the Snake River, as well as replace the existing skier bridge with a new skier/pedestrian walkway.The Snake River Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed site specific development plan and site plan for the project after some discussion over a possible encroachment into a wetlands setback.The required setback, or distance from the wetlands boundary near the edge of the Snake River to any development, is 25 feet. The plan calls for the new gondola terminal to be set back 37 feet from the boundary, but the gondola maze was planned to encroach five feet into the setback.
Commissioners voiced concern over the possible disturbance of wetlands and the precedent that could be set by allowing development in the required setback area.”You rarely see us asking for something like this,” said Thomas Davidson of Vail Resorts Development. “You usually see us spending lots of money improving the river.”Ultimately, Davidson agreed to shorten the maze so it will not dip into the wetlands setback.
Other parts of the plan call for a 42-foot-wide bridge, with 32 feet allotted for a ski/ride way and an adjacent 10-foot structure for a pedestrian walkway.The new bridge will be raised in elevation to create a 4.5 percent grade, which will allow for enough speed for skiers and riders to make it across the bridge. The bottom of the River Run trail will be reduced to a 6 percent grade.The relocation of the gondola also allows for the Summit Express maze to be moved to the west side of the lift, creating room for a teaching area with two magic carpet lifts.Vail Resorts will also re-grade the river bank just south of the new gondola terminal to improve bank stabilization, water quality and habitat in the Snake River wildlife movement corridor.
Davidson said the project will go hand-in-hand with a development at One River Run in the River Run neighborhood. Although no specific plans have been presented for that project, Randy May, also of Vail Resorts Development, said a multi-family project and skier services are possibilities.While about 10 residents showed up at the public hearing, only three spoke and no one opposed the project.”I think it’s a really worthwhile project for Keystone, and I want to see it go forward,” Bob Follett said.
The Board of County Commissioners will have the final approval on the site plan and the site specific development plan, which asks for a six-year approval instead of the standard 18-month approval.May said Vail Resorts is hoping to gain all the approvals now, so that when the funding comes through, everything will be ready to go. Vail Resorts approves its capital budget annually, and the 2006 budget would be the soonest the gondola project could be planned.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at email@example.com
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