New agreement in Vail could allow development on both pre-school and bighorn sheep sites
Proposal says town “will not be in a position to deny” Booth Heights; public hearing on Tuesday
Longtime East Vail resident Blondie Vucich says the latest development in the Booth Heights saga has “shaken the core” of many of her neighbors.
A virtual public hearing is set for Tuesday at the Vail Town Council’s evening meeting, where residents like Vucich will be able to give comment on a proposal to pass a draft agreement with Triumph Development, the company which designed the plans for the Booth Heights development which spurred Vucich and many of her neighbors to action.
The controversy began a few years ago when East Vail residents like Vucich learned that the Booth Heights parcel, located on 23 acres of bighorn sheep habitat north of Interstate 70 at exit 180, was not owned by the state of Colorado, as a previous land map had shown, and was instead owned by Vail Resorts, which, despite the fact that they had not been paying taxes on the land for decades, intended to exert their rights to the land. The company paid two years back taxes and in 2017 requested re-zoning for the 23-acre parcel, which was zoned as two-family residential. Most of the property was moved into a natural area preservation zone district, but 5.4 acres was moved into a housing zone district.
Vucich and others presented the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission with reasons why they felt the project should be denied, expressing concern for the survival of East Vail’s bighorn sheep herd, from which the Bighorn neighborhood and park derives its name. Nevertheless, the planning and environmental commission passed a project to build 61 residential units on the 5.4-acre parcel by a vote of 4-3. One of the deciding votes in favor was cast by a Vail Resorts employee who was on the commission, further irking the neighbors in that area who said that employee was compromised by working for the company which owned the land.
The Vail Town Council upheld the planning commission’s decision, also on a 4-3 vote, but a Vail Town Council election a few months later turned the council majority against the previous council’s decision, and a period of negotiations were entered into to preserve the sheep habitat.
An opportunity to instead develop other town-owned parcels of land — one at Timber Ridge, another occupied by a pre-school at Middle Creek — presented itself, and was used as a bargaining chip in negotiations to hold off on development of Booth Heights. As that pre-school now prepares to vacate, making parents nervous, it appears that both the pre-school location and the bighorn sheep location could now be developed as a result of the negotiations.
The Town of Vail, according to a pre-development agreement published Friday, is seeking to ensure that Triumph will not carry out any development on Booth Heights, despite the fact that their 61-unit development was indeed approved.
“So long as development agreements for both the Middle Creek Project and the Timber Ridge Project have been executed by the Town and Triumph, Triumph hereby agrees that it will not pursue any development that would otherwise be permitted under the development applications filed with and approved by the Town in PEC19-0018, PEC19-0019 and DRB19-0625 (the “Booth Heights Project”),” the agreement reads.
However, “Triumph acknowledges that, if the Town is presented with applications to proceed with the Booth Heights Project, and such applications comply with all applicable Town regulations and the approved development plans for the Booth Heights Project, the Town will not be in a position to deny such applications, regardless of who asserts an ownership interest in such approved development plans.”
The Vail Homeowners Association, in a letter published Saturday, pointed out that there is nothing in the agreement that would prevent Triumph from selling the plans and approvals.
“Once (Vail Resorts) has the plans and approvals, it can then get a new developer and proceed with the project,” the letter reads. “If that were to happen, (Vail Resorts) could roll construction equipment on the site this spring.”
The letter urges residents to attend the virtual meeting and speak out against the agreement.
Vucich says she will be among those urging the council to instruct staff to redraft the agreement to better ensure development on Booth Heights does not take place.
“The Council and Town Manager requested our compliance while they ‘negotiated’ over the past 13 months,“ Vucich wrote in a letter to the Vail Daily. “This is the outcome.”
The agreement is listed as action item 5.1 on the agenda for the virtual meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
To review a copy of the modified pre-development agreement in its entirety, visit vailgov.com/alternativehousingsites. To forward public comment in advance of Tuesday’s meeting, email email@example.com. To register to provide live public comment at the meeting, visit https://www.vailgov.com/town-council.