East Vail story has an early history | VailDaily.com

East Vail story has an early history

There was an idea for a truck stop at the site now mired in controversy

A parcel in East Vail currently proposed for housing was once briefly envisioned as a truck stop, then for only limited home construction.
Daily archive photo

A currently open parcel in East Vail that has been mired in a years-long controversy was once envisioned as a truck stop.

Jim Lamont, the director of the Vail Homeowners Association, was once the town of Vail’s first community development department director.

In a telephone conversation, Lamont recalled that the truck stop idea was among the first things he was involved in, probably as a graduate intern working at the town. At the time, Interstate 70’s path wasn’t entirely set.

In addition, the new town of Vail hadn’t yet annexed the few homes in the East Vail area. Residents in that area most assuredly didn’t want a truck stop at the interchange. Putting one there would have complicated efforts to bring the area into the town’s boundaries.

In addition, the Colorado Department of Highways, the predecessor to the Colorado Department of Transportation, had purchased a good bit of land for highway right of way from Vail Associates, which became Vail Resorts in the 1990s.

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Those purchases led to eventual confusion about the East Vail housing parcel’s ownership. Eagle County tax records for decades listed the state as the property owner, although the town zoned the parcel for single-family and duplex housing.

In the early 1970s, road construction was starting to change from a pure engineering exercise to a discipline that paid more attention to the environment.

Similarly, the idea of cities and towns preserving open space was in its infancy. Boulder started the trend in Colorado, Lamont said, and the idea soon found its way to Vail.

Terry Minger was Vail’s Town Manager between 1969 and 1979. Minger recalled that ideas about open space, as well as geological hazards, merged when the town created a zone district to prevent development in avalanche and mudslide areas. That’s why there are small parks on the south side of Gore Creek in East Vail.

Minger recalled that town officials in those early days “paid a lot of attention” to East Vail, in terms of building, preservation and sensitivity to wildlife.

Lamont recalled that the neighborhoods were laid out in a way to perhaps allow wildlife, including bighorn sheep, to wander relatively undisturbed around and through those neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods in East Vail were first zoned with low density with the idea that wildlife could share the area.
Gary Eno/Daily archive photo

“We wanted to keep the density really low,” Lamont recalled.

Lots in that area, primarily those north of the highway, were priced to allow local residents to buy homes, he added.

One of those early buyers was the Minger family. After renting basement space in East Vail for several years, the Mingers lived in a small East Vail home of their own for a couple of years.

All the back and forth took a toll on both town officials and those running the still-small ski company. Beaver Creek was still just an idea at the time.

“We were all so exhausted,” Lamont said, adding there was a general feeling of “letting sleeping dogs lie.”

At this point, the history of the parcel relies mostly on memory. Lamont recalled that much of the work regarding zoning and other issues was done at the staff level, not in public meetings.

But, he added, “That’s the way it happened.”

Through the years

1899: Land that includes what’s now known as the East Vail Housing Subdivision was purchased via the federal Homestead Act.

Early 1960s: The property that includes the parcel was purchased by the Trans Montane Company, the predecessor of Vail Associates.

Late 1960s: The land’s ownership was mistakenly attributed to the Colorado Department of Highways.

2015: The record was corrected and Vail Resorts asserted its ownership of the property.

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