MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – When the Mountain Village Town Council met for the second in a series of meetings contemplating the town’s draft Comprehensive Plan last Thursday, it largely supported an idea that could one day convert Big Billie’s employee apartments located at the base of Lifts 1 and 10 in the Meadows subarea to a moderately-priced hotel.
The consensus signaled a departure from the recommendation made by the advisory Comprehensive Plan Task Force, whose volunteers indicated it should remain employee housing after fleshing out future development plans for the mid-mountain community for more than two years,
“It’s an eyesore today, it has bad circulation, it really isn’t a nice base area for Mountain Village, and I know that’s a personal-slash-professional opinion, but it really isn’t,” Community Development Director Chris Hawkins briefed council. “It needs to be redeveloped at some point in time at the future.”
Were it to continue in its present use, “it would be probably one of the only ski in/ski out employee housing projects directly adjacent to a base in a ski area,” he said. “There’s probably others out there in the country, but they’re pretty rare because it is valuable.”
An alternative redevelopment plan could include a small commercial area, a small skiers’ services area, hotbeds and perhaps a few condominiums, Hawkins explained.
“I certainly agree that there has to be a higher and better use of land that is at the base of the two easiest ski runs with a babbling brook next to it and adjacent to the golf course. I think other communities would call that the Ritz Carlton, not a dormitory named after a prostitute,” Mayor Bob Delves said to erupting council and audience laughter.
Dave Riley, chief executive officer for the Telluride Ski and Golf Company, which is a partial owner of Big Billie’s and its operator, said he didn’t envision the building as a five-star hotel because of its lack of a grand view. Still, he thought that with improvements like new windows, siding and landscaping it could be a successful three-star property.
That said, before a conversion could happen Telski would need to break a tax credit arrangement it has with the state to operate Big Billie’s as employee housing through 2025. “We would have to have a replacement site for those pillows to go, so if you wanted to see that look better before 2025 you need to create the environment for me to work with it,” Riley said. “What that means is you would need to help me find a place to put those pillows and you’d need to, in your master plan, allocate that area as a hotel.”
“I think it could be done relatively quickly, too; it would be one of those things that we could look at as a priority if you wanted to do that.”
In the absence of Councilmember Cath Jett from the meeting, Councilmember Dave Schillaci, a Meadows resident, signaled the only opposition to further exploration of the idea.
“I am 100 percent against a hotel in the Meadows,” he said, adding that he feared the traffic impacts of such a development, particularly speeding in an area dense with children.
“Now we have a nice neighborhood and to start putting in commercial I think is the wrong direction.”
In other council direction, the improvement of pedestrian connectivity from the Meadows to the Mountain Village Core emerged as a council priority for the subarea.
The group also agreed that Telluride Apartments, the 30-unit, privately owned, low-income apartment complex now sitting empty because of ongoing mold issues and a very likely candidate for razing, should be rebuilt and density there maximized for employee housing while at the same time maintaining some green space in the area.
“This green area needs to be preserved,” said Schillaci. “We don’t need a full ball field, but we do need an area to go kick a ball.”
A Task Force idea to add density to two vacant lots, number 644 that is being acquired by the town through the Mountain Village Hotel Planned Unit Development process and is currently zoned for 44 deed restricted units, and Telski-owned lot 651, now zoned for 15 free market condominiums, by pushing north toward Country Club Drive, met with some resistance from the community and council. Members of both felt such a move could compromise the character of the existing, single-family, free-market neighborhood to the north.
Council instead suggested that any increase in housing density develop west of the lots into what is now zoned as passive open space.
“The general theme was to maintain the status quo on those two lots, but if it made sense to accommodate some more deed restricted density to encroach on some open space we’d consider it,” Delves said. “The door is open.”
“We need to really take a look at what makes sense in that area,” said Hawkins, indicating that its topography could be challenging for such development.
Despite some resistance to a larger parking area because of the increased traffic and air pollution it could generate, a pricey idea to replace the existing Meadows parking lot with a two-story subterranean parking lot with a green roof remained in the plan.
“We’re dubious about that because of the cost, but there’s no reason not to keep it in as an idea,” said Delves.
Still, an outstanding parking needs assessment will ultimately determine whether the lot is ultimately necessary.
A neighborhood daycare center envisioned in the draft plan got lukewarm support from council, which went on to shut the door to future, non-accommodation commercial uses in the subarea, preferring they remain in the Mountain Village Core.
“I’m not so sure that’s the right spot for a daycare,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Jonathan Greenspan, adding that his preference for such a facility would be in the Town Hall subarea.
“I really believe that we should not put any commercial down [in the Meadows] at all, it has failed miserably,” he added.
At the same time, council liked the idea of converting the town shops, Telski maintenance and Prospect Plaza areas from light industrial to residential uses.
Delves said he was pleased with the flow and tone of the meeting, which remained respectful and thoughtful throughout.
“It’s refreshing to be reminded how good open government can be.”
The Mountain Village Town Council will next discuss the draft Comprehensive Plan at its regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 17 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the Mountain Village Town Hall. Topics for discussion include the 89 Lots, the Gondola Parcel, Hood Park and an update on land use ordinance and design regulation changes.