At the Winter Park Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 12th, Gale Schrag, Manager of WP Idlewild LLC, and Dave Williams, with DTJ Design, presented the amended Final Development Plan for the proposed Idlewild Village, which was zoned and annexed into the Town in 2007, to the Planning Commission and Town staff.

The 22 acre property located east of the Fraser River on Ski Idlewild Drive was previously zoned as a Planned Development allowing up to 319 residential units, 70 accommodation (hotel) units and an undetermined amount of commercial square footage.

The original application filed with the Town in the spring submitted that the Plan, once completed, would include 269 multifamily (condominium) units and 50 townhomes. It also proposed an increase in accommodation units to 150, which the developer stated was needed to attract a full-service hotel franchise to the property.

The application also indicated that all parking would be accommodated in under building or attached parking structures and garages, minimizing surface parking. As a result, the developer also requested a variance increase in building height of the hotel facility to eighty feet (25’ taller than Code allows), 65 feet for the condominium buildings (30’ taller than Code allows), and up to forty three feet (8’ taller than Code allows) for the Townhomes.

When presented at the May 8 Planning Commission meeting, the Commission requested the applicant revise the application, considering revisions decreasing building height, townhome design that follows the natural topography of the land, added sight line drawings, exhibit of existing grades, clarification of a minimum amount of convention space supplied with the hotel development, defined building coverage and gross density, setbacks and the winter trail to be a year-round, permanent trail through the development. Further discussion on the development was continued to the June 12th meeting.

Schrag told the commissioners and staff the application had been revised and resubmitted for approval. He said they tried hard to accommodate suggestions received at the last meeting and had to reduce the number of units by 60 condos and 3 townhomes to meet the requested building height reduction. He also told them that he had two interested hotel companies interested, Hyatt Place and IHG’s Hotel Indigo, but could not get a commitment until the Planning Commission and Town Council approve the Final Development Plan.

Williams went over the design changes impacted by the decreased building heights. He told the commissioners that they want to have the townhomes follow natural topography of the site but cautioned that disruption to topography during construction occurs. “To say it’ll follow the slope will be tough due to excavation”, stated Williams. Many of the buildings will be a stepped design from ground to rooftop, so measuring the building height will vary at different points in the buildings. Williams showed new design renderings and assured the commissioners that existing homes would still have unobstructed ski slope views.

The revised plan also estimated hotel employee housing to provide 31-32 “pillows”, based upon a 150 unit hotel, $2/square foot for all commercial use areas, and 2.25% in real estate assessment and transfer fees.

During the public comment period, residents of the surrounding area approached the podium to discuss their concerns with the development. The Town had also received six letters prior to the meeting commenting on the project. One resident went to the length of hiring a drone operator to photograph the sight views at the proposed building heights to 65’.

Comments regarding concerns with the building height and the “radical change” it will make to the character of town, the precedent to approval of the building height would open the door to other developers asking same, the added building height does not provide an additional financial benefit to the town, since the number of approved residential units were unchanged. Concerns with the spring that runs year-round on the proposed hotel site could inhibit the ability to construct underground parking, and how will the developer mitigate the wetland and assure adequate retention of stormwater is maintained to protect the Fraser River? No soil testing has been done thus far – what happens if they cannot build below ground parking? The proposed use of Ski Idlewild Road was another concern as it is already a busy side street with heavy utilization. An initial traffic study had been completed in 2007 and Ski Idlewild was found to be an adequate access point for the development. This was prior to the opening of Hideaway Park, so the results were questionable. Extending Rosie’s Way was suggested as a better option to the development.

Several spoke in support of the project, saying that a full-service hotel is needed in town and the 10’ wide winter trail fulfills an important need to the community.

After the public comment closed, the Commissioners began discussion on the development, taking the comments received into consideration. The discussion included considering re-evaluation of the Town Plan’s height restrictions to determine whether the 35’ and 55’ limits are truly where they need to be set. They also talked about the lack of soil testing and engineering that had been done, because if the soil does not allow for below ground construction of the parking, it will require significant overhaul of the current plans. Before considering approval of a 150 room hotel, they wanted a minimum amount of conference space to be defined. They also wanted to see the results of an updated traffic study and asked staff to look into extending Rosie’s Way in to the new development. The plans for setbacks and building height are more conceptual than actual, making it difficult for the commissioners to make the best decision.

Commissioner Jonathan Larson motioned for a continuation to the July 24th meeting, adding the following conditions: bring in a 3rd party to verify sight lines to see where they land for heights; submit the results of the engineer’s traffic study; add language to the FDP with a proposed minimum square footage of conference space and define “full-service” hotel. He also requested further investigation of extending Rosie’s Way be conducted, that external parking be defined in residential section PA-1, and inclusion of access points to both the Wheeler and VZF properties be outlined in the FDP. With this information, Larson said the 65’ vs. 55’ building height would be reviewed at the next meeting.

In response, Schrag told the commissioners they are not willing to bear the burden of the expense to extend Rosie’s Way. He said he would prefer the commissioners vote to approve or deny the application and move on to the Town Council.

The motion for continuation was approved in a 3-1 vote. You can read more on the development on the Town’s website: