Vail council to hold Thursday meeting to discuss East Vail housing site
Agenda for closed-door meeting lists topic as ‘legal advice’ about the land
The Vail Town Council is holding a special executive session Thursday to discuss the Vail Resorts-owned property in East Vail. The session is not open to the public.
The session’s public notice language is standard stuff, and states the session is a conference with Town Attorney Matt Mire for legal advice and possibly work on legal strategies in consideration of “the purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale” of East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision.” That’s the site formerly known as the Booth Heights project.
Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid in a message stated that something from Thursday’s meeting may end up on the May 17 regular meeting, but it’s too soon to say.
The East Vail site, owned by Vail Resorts, is about 5.4 acres of a 23.3-acre property just north of the Interstate 70 interchange at East Vail. That site is zoned for workforce housing. The remainder of the property is zoned “Natural Area Preservation,” one of the town’s most restrictive zoning designations. That zoning allows trails and little else.
The years-long controversy over the parcel has taken a couple of new turns in the past month.
Vail Resorts in April announced plans to build on the property. The project had been approved in 2019, but the resort company still needs approval of the Vail Design Review Board for several changes to the project. That board on May 4 continued its review until its May 18 meeting.
Responding to the Vail Resorts announcement, the Vail Town Council on May 3 passed a resolution to begin condemnation proceedings to acquire the property via the eminent domain process. In this case, the municipal goal is preservation of the property, which is seen as critical bighorn sheep habitat.
Since that move, Vail Resorts representatives have remained firm in asserting the intent to build on the site.
The condemnation process first requires “good faith” negotiations between a local government and property owner. Negotiations are likely to take place behind closed doors.
If negotiations fail, a process of appraisals and, ultimately, a judge’s decision, determine whether the acquisition is in the public interest and at what price the sale will be made.
That process is rare in Colorado.
Club 20 is a Western Slope lobbying and advocacy group. In an email, Club 20 Director Christian Reece wrote that in her near-decade of work in Western Slope politics, she hadn’t heard of a community actually using condemnation to force the acquisition of a piece of property.
“I’ve heard lots of threats, but no cases of its actual use,” Reece wrote.
The Colorado Municipal League is an organization representing all the state’s towns and cities.
Colorado Municipal League Executive Director Kevin Bommer said in a phone conversation that he and others at the organization have “never” seen a condemnation action done the way Vail has authorized.
There are “friendly” condemnations, in which a municipality and property owner work to find an agreed value, Bommer said.
But he added, “it’s rare you see a controversial application of eminent domain.”