Jack is back. Two years ago, developer Jack Buchanan came in like a wrecking ball with a proposal to raze the El Rancho park-n-ride, the Alpine Rescue Team building and the Rainbow Hills fire station to construct what he envisioned as a miniature downtown Vail west of Highway 74 and north of U.S. 40.
Now, he has decided the ideal site for his proposed hotel is in the valley below U.S. 40. His new scheme called “Option B” still entails removing the fire station to a site a quarter mile away, this time on a proposed 40-foot deep platform of fill dirt. He still intends to create a permanent, quarter-mile detour for the public Rainbow Hill Road.
While the plan on its face “provides” the fire department a new station, it requires them to sacrifice their excellent site and facility only to gain 400 square feet in the proposed new building. Crucially, it asks the Foothills Fire Protection District, a public agency, to participate in the developer’s broader scheme in exchange for this donation.
The developer has portrayed his proposal to the county and CDOT as a public service and has explicitly requested setback relief, expedited rezoning, expedited concurrence review, and direct transfer of land (avoiding a public bid process required by state law) in return.
In addition to acquiring adjacent right-of-way, his ultimate reward is the corner property containing the park-n-ride lot—a second taxpayer-funded asset that would be sacrificed for his private benefit.
Beyond that brazen objective, he has recently submitted a contract to the FFPD that articulates a second scheme,explicitly requiring them to deceive with the expressed intention of interfering with CDOT’s property rights enshrined in the language of the deed to the parcel the fire station occupies.
Alternatively, Buchanan’s newly formulated “Option A” entails developing only the private land north of U.S. 40. This innovative idea entails no harm to existing public assets, nor does it embroil a special district in the morass of complications, delays and ethical ambiguity that is Option B.
The watershed decision is the FFPD’s to make. The developer has for two years sought to convince them that he alone can fix their infrastructure needs, and the only way forward is his “free” offer. The people of this district are better, smarter and more resourceful than that. FFPD’s decision should be obvious, but incredibly it is still pending.
Kathryn Mauz, El Rancho and Evergreen