Vail Resorts’ East Vail rezoning request receives first OK from planning board
VAIL — The Town Council meeting room in Vail rarely fills to capacity. It did Monday for a Vail Planning and Environmental Commission hearing.
The topic at hand was a proposal to rezone a 23.3-acre parcel north of the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange from two-family residential to a combination of deed-restricted housing and open-space designations. By a 6-0 vote, commission members sent a recommendation of approval to the Vail Town Council.
The council now must pass an ordinance to give final approval to the request.
The rezoning proposal would convert 17.9 acres of the parcel to the town’s Natural Area Preservation zoning. That zoning would allow no building on the property, only a few trails. That zoning can only be changed via town election.
The smaller parcel, 5.4 acres, would be changed to allow only deed-restricted workforce housing. That’s the town’s most restrictive residential zoning, in terms of planning oversight, and requires public review of detailed development plans before building permits are issued.
Most of those in the meeting room seemed to be opposed to the proposal. Residents questioned the lack of a detailed plan and how many bedrooms would be allowed on the parcel.
Those questions won’t be answered until a development plan is submitted.
“If I approved this, with no plan, I’d be doing it knowing my neck would be in the noose,” resident Pam Stenmark told commission members.
A NEED, BUT NOT THERE
Fellow resident Richard Leslie agreed.
“Nobody can disagree with the need for employee housing. We don’t need it this way,” Leslie said. Leslie urged town officials to go to Vail Resorts and insist upon a detailed plan.
Resident Alan Danson recommended that the town and the ski company work a deal for town-owned property east of the Middle Creek apartments. That would allow construction of housing that could be walking distance to work for many employees.
Other residents talked about the potential of adding more residents to an area that already sees a lot of traffic and other pressure.
Others talked about wildlife and the bighorn sheep, elk and other creatures frequently seen on the property.
“Community is not just us people,” Carl Cochhiarella said.
Many opponents’ comments were greeted with enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Supporters Monday seemed outnumbered, but some did come to speak in support of the proposal.
“If we don’t do something to help keep employees in town, the world-class resort we have won’t be world class for long,” resident Jeff Wiles said.
Joe Joyce urged commission members and the audience to think of the property less as a benefit for Vail Resorts and more of a benefit for the town and the people who live and work there.
A NEED TO COMMUNICATE
Resident Bobby Lipnick urged audience members to meet more often and talk to one another.
“Nobody wants (housing) in their back yard,” Lipnick said. “We might be stronger, better people if we do have it in our back yard.”
After the public comment, commission members started talking about their responsibilities, particularly regarding whether the proposal meets the eight criteria set out in the town code.
Commission member John Ryan Lockman noted that the proposal meets all of the town’s criteria.
Commission Chairman John Rediker agreed. Still, he said, opponents of the proposal brought some “very legitimate” concerns to Monday’s meeting.
“I hope people stay involved,” Rediker said.
Echoing comments from commission member Karen Marie Perez, Rediker noted that it’s “somewhat odd” that a zoning change request comes to the board before a development plan is submitted. But, he added, the process is proper under the town’s codes, and there’s “nothing unworkable” about the rezoning request.
“The concerns are what may happen,” Rediker said. “We’re not there yet.”
Once a plan is submitted, “If you are still concerned, please come back and voice concerns about what is actually developed on the site.”
That proposal may take some time. According to Vail Resorts officials, the company will find a developer once the land is formally rezoned. Given the Vail Town Council’s meeting schedule, Oct. 3 is the earliest an ordinance could be approved with two readings.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.
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