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Ski area, town agreement a win for both

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Town and ski area officials both got what they wanted out of a development agreement hammered out by Mayor Sam Mamula and Breckenridge Ski Resort Chief Operations Officer Roger McCarthy earlier this month.

The agreement has been about two years in the making, with town officials requesting the ski area outline details about parking, transportation, environmental mitigation, development density and new lifts on the mountain.

“I think that was driving them crazy; it was driving us crazy,” said Town Manager Tim Gagen of the minutiae hashed out in numerous traffic, wetlands and parking studies. “Most of the early feedback we’ve gotten is all pretty positive. It’s one of those relief types of things, that something has been struck, and it looks like a good thing.”

Vail Resorts officials, who purchased the Breckenridge Ski Resort in 1997, have spent millions of dollars on employee housing, base area improvements, property acquisitions and on-mountain development. But in its master plan amendment proposed to the town two years ago, they indicated they also wanted to tear down the Bergenhof Restaurant on Peak 8 and redevelop the base area to include a grand lodge, commercial, restaurant and skier services.

Development on Peak 7 is proposed to include several smaller inns. Resort officials also want to build a gondola, linking town to the mountain base, and eventually build on land they own at Sawmill and Watson parking lots, located between the City Market complex and town hall.

The new agreement outlines how that will take place.

A major component of the proposed development that’s been discussed over the years has been the amount of density – particularly commercial space – the resort will be permitted to build at the base of Peak 8. Under the terms of the agreement, that has been set at 501 Single-Family Equivalents (SFEs) or approximately 501,000 square feet.

That density, the agreement indicates, will include 131 residential units and skier facilities on Peak 7, and 340 residential units and skier facilities and commercial space on Peak 8.

It’s also higher than what’s permitted there under the 1986 master plan, but represents a reduction in commercial space, from about 30,000 square feet resort officials originally proposed two years ago, to about 15,000 square feet, Gagen said.

The resort’s current master plan does not have 501 SFE, but will be permitted to transfer density from its in-town parcels to accommodate more if it’s needed. But for each SFE of density the resort decides to transfer, officials also have agreed to eliminate an additional 25 percent from its in-town properties, Gagen said.

“I’m real pleased the ski area chose to do the 25 percent density reduction,” said town councilmember J.B. Katz. “It shows they’re a leader for the community; that they’re setting an example for everyone else to follow.”

The resort also has the option to transfer density from in-town parcels to the Village at Breckenridge and Breckenridge Mountain Lodge for possible redevelopment.

“Parking and density were real biggies for the town in this agreement,” Gagen said. “And the ski company, they’re getting money for the gondola and the ski-back.”

Construction of a gondola extending from Watson parking lot to Shock Hill, across Cucumber Gulch wetlands and on to Peak 7 and 8 also has been a goal of resort officials after traffic studies showed building one would reduce congestion on Ski Hill Road. Funding the $16-million project, however, remained an unknown until the agreement was struck, Gagen said.

The ski resort has agreed to spend $10 million to build it, and town officials will develop a method to fund it. The funding mechanism most likely to be used, Gagen said, is a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF. This involves delineating a tax district on Peaks 7 and 8 – to include only Vail Resorts-owned properties. Those properties will be taxed to help pay for $6.7 million of the $20 million needed to build the gondola and a ski-back from Peak 8 into town. Funds generated after the gondola and ski-back are built, will go toward other parking and transportation needs, Gagen said.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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