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January 3, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Litigation consumes resources

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.

Lawyers for the town of Vail and the Golf Clubhouse neighborhood have filed their arguments with the court and are awaiting the judge’s decision. The town could have resubmitted the Golf Club House Commercial Event Center design to the electorate for a fraction of the total that the ensuing litigation has cost. The town will likely continue to challenge protective covenants because of the perspective of some who claim the town has the ability to overturn covenants that they consider as outdated. That attitude, if put into action, will likely result in more litigation, which would in turn, usher in a new era for Vail where significant budget resources will be consumed by litigation. By way of comparison, prior to 2011, the town went eight years without becoming embroiled in major litigation. There are those who question what changed and why.

In addition to outright challenges to the founding covenants, there are potentially controversial zoning issues with broad effects getting under way. These may include town house and historical zoning, inconsistencies in primary and secondary duplex zoning, restrictions on private clubs and marijuana shops, short term occupancy mandates and other environmentally directed regulations. This will be another area that VHA will closely monitor.

Ford Park Master Plan

The Town Council approved an update to the Ford Park Master Plan. The plan provides for the addition of an open air lobby to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and the development of an education center for the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The Homeowners Association was successful in having included in the plan opportunities for the improvement of the park’s Frontage Road traffic circulation, the consideration of a year round facility and the consolidation of shared uses into a single facility, as well as having greater emphasis placed on restricting improvements that add pollutants to Gore Creek or adversely affect environmentally sensitive areas. How each of these actions will be accomplished remains a matter of on-going concern and involvement for the Association.

In many ways, Gore Creek is the canary in the tunnel for the environmental health of the community. Unfortunately, recent news has not been good. The state of Colorado now uses the health of aquatic bug life to determine if a stream is polluted. Gore Creek failed to meet the new standard. Even more problems may be in the offing due to the interconnection between the town storm drains and the sewer treatment system. Recently, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District says the interconnection of the two systems is no longer appropriate and it has been conducting smoke tests that will likely lead to the termination of the interconnection. Once separated, storm drainage will most likely be diverted into Gore Creek, which will further exacerbate the stream’s pollution levels. One of the largest sources of pollution, chemical and otherwise, is storm runoff accumulation that comes from the public roadways, including the interstate.

There are those at the town and other stream protection advocates who desire to use land immediately adjacent to streams to filter pollutants in combination with regulating fertilizing and landscaping practices. Stream banks (riparian habitat) are known to be effective in absorbing the effects of certain pollutants. However, there has, as of yet, been no scientific evidence presented specific to Gore Creek as to the limitations and degree of effectiveness of using its riparian habitat as a passive treatment approach to either partially treat or eliminate chemical contaminants.

There are doubts that the scale of the urban runoff pollutants can be contained or rapidly eradicated without the need for collection and treatment facilities, which could be very costly. The Homeowners Association is pressing public officials to determine how an effective collection system should function, who would operate and pay for it, as well as a target date for Gore Creek to be rid of pollutants. The town and district have announced the intent to hold a public meeting, but have yet to set a date.

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The VailDaily Updated Jan 3, 2014 09:03PM Published Jan 3, 2014 02:24PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.