BRECKENRIDGE — In a meeting that nearly lasted until midnight, the Breckenridge Town Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the East Peak 8 development without its club membership program.
The main sticking point of the discussion was the membership proposal, which would have provided up to 150 people with day-use access to facilities at the development, including parking.
The more than three-hour long hearing, which began at about 8 p.m., was tense with two council members threatening to pull the plug on the entire project and Jeffrey Bergeron calling the club membership piece “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Concerns about traffic had the developers, Lionheart-LH Mountain Ventures, walking back the membership plan ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, saying they initially would limit club memberships to 90 with incremental increases over time and a maximum of 150 memberships, pending certain thresholds.
That was only part of the development permit application to construct a hotel and condominium project consisting of 49 condos, 137 guest rooms, a restaurant and bar, a pool and spa, and ski lockers, among other amenities.
Senior planner Chris Kulick gave an overview of the project, addressing concerns that had been brought up by neighbors and other members of the public, such as the height of the building, the space between the edge of the building and One Ski Hill Place, the club membership and the traffic. Kulick said “great detail was paid” in reviewing the height of the project and that planning staff determined the tallest point of the building is between a half-story and one story above the recommended five stories. He added that the view corridor, which requires a minimum of 47 feet between the building and One Ski Hill Place, has been maintained in the proposal.
Kulick also gave an overview of the traffic impact analysis study supplied by the applicant and reviewed by a third party. He said recommendations made to improve circulation of the intersections at the Ski Hill Road and Park Avenue as well as Ski Hill Road and Main Street include changes to signal timing and lane queuing.
Members of the public were able to share their input at about 10 p.m. In addition to letters submitted to the town, 11 members of the community stood at the podium to make public comments. First up were community members in favor of the project, including Daniel Teodoru, the designated legal counsel of the One Ski Hill Place homeowners association board of directors, and Graham Frank, of Breckenridge Grand Vacations. Teodoru said that when the project began, the board had significant concerns but now feel as though many of their concerns have been addressed.
“Over the course of the last six months … there have been a lot of very significant efforts made by the developer and the developing consultants to work with us, engage with us and progressively work through a lot of these issues,” Teodoru said.
Frank also voiced his support of the project, saying he feels it is good for Breckenridge.
Breckenridge Residence Inn General Manager Scott Lypsen then gave what Mayor Eric Mamula called a “transition” comment. Lypsen voiced his support of the project, saying he felt a four-star hotel would bring a great deal of value to the community, but also offered a word of caution around the parking issue.
“My caution — we talk a lot about parking and traffic — is I would caution you guys to focus heavily on that,” Lypsen said, explaining that a shortage of parking at his hotel has become a significant issue. “I’ve got … a single studio room that has two beds in it, and if they show up with two cars, and I send one away, they’re through the roof about it. … They’re not just going to be dissatisfied with that business, they’re losing faith in the town, as well. They feel like they’re not invited with their vehicles to come here.”
Eight community members then spoke in opposition of the project. Neil Groundwater, a resident in the area, was concerned about parking, traffic and the view driving up Ski Hill Road — comparing it to driving past “a set of New York townhomes.” He asked that council vote against the addition of the club membership.
Paul Weller, another nearby resident, pointed out the current traffic issues.
“Adding 300 more parking spaces to what is already a busy road is, in my mind, a recipe for disaster,” Weller said.
Lindsey Stapay and Heather Humphrey had concerns about how the project would benefit locals. And Dan Corwin felt there wasn’t enough information for council to make a decision.
“After listening to all this conversation, it sounds like you’ve really got a lot of questions that you still need to have answers to,” Corwin said.
The hearing closed after 11 p.m., and the council entered into deliberation.
Council member Wendy Wolfe, who previously had voiced concerns about parking, said allowing more cars on Ski Hill Road would be ignoring the overall vision for why the gondola was put in: to keep day skier traffic at the bottom of the hill.
“Now we’re doing traffic studies that says, ‘It’s no big deal,’” Wolfe said. “I would beg to differ; 1,840 trips added to what we already have is a big deal.”
Mamula also had traffic concerns, though his were specific to the membership program.
“It is difficult for me to believe that adding 150 club memberships — which is not necessarily 150 cars, it could be 300 cars, it could be 450 cars for all I know because we don’t really know what that means — is not going to have an impact according to the traffic study,” Mamula said. “I can’t make that logical leap that adding additional cars outside of what’s predicated by the development itself is OK, that that squares with the masterplan.”
Council member Gary Gallagher made the room go silent when he stated that he was willing to call it quits.
“At this point … I’d be prepared to lose the project,” Gallagher said. “I’d love to have it, but if the developer doesn’t think that he can do it without the club memberships, I’m not going to be pulled in that direction for fear of losing a four-star hotel. I think there’s just too many other negative implications.”
Wolfe echoed his sentiments calling the club a deal breaker, and Erin Gigliello worried traffic management would fall on the shoulders of Breckenridge staff.
“Most importantly, it sounds loud and clear that our community does not want this membership, and I think that’s who we work for,” Gigliello said.
In the end, the developer agreed to cut the club membership, and council decided to approve the application with the requirement that 46 commercial parking spaces at the development site not be used for paid skier parking.
A written decision will be prepared by town attorney Tim Berry and presented to council at the next meeting March 10.