The Mountain Village Design Review Board decided Thursday afternoon that more time is needed to discuss a proposed development on Lot 161 CR and the adjoining Pond Lots near the Village Center before any action is taken regarding the proposed Conceptual Site-Specific Planned Unit Development (SPUD) application.
The board and Mountain Village Town Council held a joint special meeting during council’s regular meeting to consider the action items of the design review board’s recommendation to council and council’s consideration of the SPUD. The design review board decided to continue its discussion and action item, as well as the public hearing, to March 17 by a 4-3 vote. Banks Brown, Adam Miller and Scott Bennett opposed the motion in expressing their desire to continue the recommendation discussion and ultimately make a decision Thursday.
The applicant, Merrimac Fort Partners LLC, has previously discussed plans for a Four Seasons hotel, as well as a mixture of residences. The current application includes a 50-room hotel, 46 branded residences, 37 lodge units and 31 condominiums.
“We continue to improve, we continue to work, we welcome your comments, but please keep in mind that our goal is to deliver a five-star luxury brand and experience with a combination of hotel, hotel residences, private residences, as well as amenities, which we’re opening to our neighbors and residents that will hopefully be added amenities and a benefit to the community,” said Dev Motwani, president and CEO of Merrimac Ventures.
During an April 2021 Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA) meeting, Motwani explained he planned to partner with Nadim Ashi of Fort Partners on the Mountain Village project. The two previously worked together co-developing Florida’s Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale. Ashi also owns the Four Seasons Palm Beach and the Four Seasons Surf Club.
Michelle Haynes — the town’s planning and development services director, as well as housing director — began Thursday’s joint meeting by explaining the process and the roles of the officials involved.
“This is a three-step process, we’re on the first step, which is the conceptual approval. There would be two other steps. Step two would be sketch plan review with the design review board, and we’d see a final SPUD review and the associated legal agreements at that time,” she said. “The purpose of a conceptual site-specified PUD is the design review board focuses on design-related issues and the town council focuses on four main issues, inclusive of general conformance with the comprehensive plan, density, community benefits, and mass and scale.”
Amy Ward, the town’s senior planner, went on to reiterate “three primary areas of concern,” including building form and siting, the plaza areas and the public connections, and the loading dock and trash area, before Motwani, along with Kiersten Ring Murray of architectural firm Olson Kundig, presented. Both explained that elements of the plans that were submitted to the town have already been tweaked and altered after receiving feedback from nearby residents.
Town officials, including design review board members, noted the proposed height variance of 95.5 feet as one of their biggest concerns, as well as connectivity to the Village Center, gondola access, the flat roof and materials used, among others. But no one was outright opposed to the overall project.
Similarly, a healthy amount of public comment was given Thursday in support of the project, but several people also noted the size and the aesthetic of the current renderings as elements they’d like to see changed before the project proceeds toward final approval. No one who spoke Thursday wholeheartedly objected to the project.
Anton Benitez, who was speaking as a Mountain Village resident, started the public comment period by outlining all of the benefits to the community, including satisfying objectives outlined in the town’s current comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2011. The town is also currently undergoing a comprehensive plan amendment process.
“I think it supports the brand. It’s probably the single most important thing to be done in Mountain Village to create vibrancy and sustainability. I think it provides another lodging opportunity for our guests. I’m extremely supportive of this project as outlined today,” he said.
Benitez is currently the executive director of TMVOA, which sold Lot 161 CR — a 2.8-acre property to the northeast of the gondola transfer station — to Merrimac Ventures for $9 million during its April 2021 meeting. The vote then was unanimous, though Telski’s Chad Horning, Jeff Proteau and Tom Richards, who are all TMVOA directors, as well as Abbott Smith, recused themselves. TMVOA purchased the lot for $8.1 million in 2015. The sale price reflected the money TMVOA spent on legal fees during litigation with nearby Ridge property owners since the initial purchase.
Horning spoke at Thursday’s meeting on behalf of Telski.
“I just wanted to share a couple thoughts. The way we’re looking at this development, and in our conversations with the developer, this is only an option as a five-star luxury hotel experience. I encourage everybody to look at it from that perspective as you believe the requirements will be on that to effectuate that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the same support for the project at all,” he said, adding that TMVOA went through a “really exhaustive process” to find the right developer. “ … These developers were by far the strongest developers. They knew Telluride. They understand this project. They want to do something that’s unique and something special here. I just want to remind everybody that finding a developer that actually cares is really rare. Developers are usually there for the profit, not the longevity of the project, so I think we have something special here. I think the impact of a five-star project on everybody in this room and who lives here, there are negative impacts with any projects, but the positive impacts would be really substantial.”
Horning has previously expressed the importance of creating more hotel, or hot beds, within Mountain Village to support the resort’s plans to expand services and strengthen the overall guest experience.
Resident Bryan Woody called the project “beautiful.”
“It’s really exciting to have a property of this caliber in Mountain Village. I hope that we can work out the design issues and opposition that we heard today,” he said.
Before the vote to continue the discussion, design review board members echoed the town and resident’s sentiments.
“I am in favor of a high-end hotel in this location. I’m also in favor of contemporary modern architecture,” board member Ellen Kramer said, before addressing the applicant. “ … I appreciate your presentation and all your words. Your words are exactly what we want to hear, but that’s not what we’re seeing here. As this stands before us, it lacks a lot of basic compliance with our CDC (community development code) and that gives me great pause because it’s very difficult and puts us in a very uncomfortable position to approve something with 35 or however many variances, variations and special specific approvals. It seems like even though, in general, I am in favor of everything that you said, your words and your visuals aren’t jiving for me.”
Brown, the board’s chair, agreed and cited the current proposed height as one of his biggest concerns. He described current renderings as “monolithic.”
But added, “I do want to see this project go through.”
To learn more about the project and view current plans, visit townofmountainvillage.com/current-planning.