Vail Council will begin process to condemn East Vail parcel

First public hearing will be at May 3 meeting

This is a portion of a parcel in East Vail on which Vail Resorts wants to build workforce housing.
Chris Dillmann/Daily archive photo

The fate of a parcel in East Vail targeted for workforce housing has closely divided Vail’s community and its elected representatives.

The Vail Town Council Tuesday voted 4-3 to start work on a resolution to start the condemnation process for the Vail Resorts-owned parcel formerly known as Booth Heights.

Vail Resorts earlier this month announced it would re-start efforts to build workforce housing on the 5.3 acre site just north of the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange. Council member Kevin Foley said at the time that the move could prompt the Council to begin condemnation proceedings.

The Council Tuesday emerged from an executive session — private sessions intended to discuss legal matters and a few other topics — to announce that the group had directed Town Attorney Matt Mire to draft a resolution of condemnation for the entire 23.3 acre site. The first public hearing on that resolution will be held May 3.

Mayor Kim Langmaid in an interview after the meeting said while the vote was tight to draft a resolution, the three dissenting voters said they preferred to wait for a couple of weeks to see whether the town and Vail Resorts could come to some sort of agreement to preserve the site.

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While the parcel was approved in 2019 for a workforce housing project — also by 4-3 votes by the Vail Planning and Zoning Commission and by the Town Council in rejecting an appeal of the earlier decision — the plans had gone dormant.

How immediate is this?

While Vail Resorts wants to have a project completed in 2023, there are enough changes to the plan that the Vail Design Review Board will have to approve those changes. An application has been filed, and the topic is scheduled to be heard at that board’s May 4 meeting.

If the project earns Design Review Board approval, it will be built in phases over “several seasons,” according to documents filed with the town. The original approval called for the project to be built in one phase.

The community split over the project has pitted those who believe the site is essential to add workforce housing and those who believe the parcel should be preserved, in large part to help sustain a herd of bighorn sheep that winter in the area.

Vail Resorts brought a number of executives and employees to Tuesday’s meeting. Several spoke about the need for more workforce housing in town.

Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Beth Howard began, bringing a map of the area and reading a prepared statement urging the council not to condemn the property.

What about private homes?

Howard noted that a pair of private homes are being built in neighborhoods in the bighorn winter habitat zone. Neither of those homes went through environmental review, Howard noted, adding that the proposed workforce housing site is owned by Vail Resorts.

In a Wednesday interview, Langmaid said that’s an ingenuous assertion. She added that the neighborhood where the homes mentioned by Howard are were platted in 1972.

Project supporters weren’t the only ones who spoke Tuesday. Several residents spoke about the need to preserve the property and protect the herd.

“If we lose this sheep herd, they’ll never come back,” resident Trey Milhoan said.

While Howard noted that the East Vail parcel is approved for 165 beds, and stressed the immediate needs, Langmaid had a different view.

Langmaid after the meeting said the town offered Vail Resorts a land swap to exchange the East Vail property for the property where the Residences at Main Vail apartments are now being built.

“They could have been building on that site today,” she said.

Langmaid added that the company could build housing closer to workers’ jobs by using some of the property once intended for the Ever Vail resort project. Langmaid noted that office buildings on the property between South Frontage Road and Interstate 70 would be an ideal site for workforce housing.

According to Colorado law, if Vail proceeds with a condemnation case, the town will have to pay the “reasonable market value” of the property, based on independent appraisals. The value will ultimately be decided by a judge.

Langmaid said if the town proceeds, and prevails in its efforts, the town will tap its Real Estate Transfer tax fund.

Vail Finance Director Kathleen Halloran in an email wrote that fund currently holds about $15 million. The town has another $60 million or so in other reserves.

Five facts

Name: The parcel was known as “Booth Heights” during its 2019 approval hearings. The project is now called the “East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision.”

Location: East Vail, just north of the Interstate 70 interchange.

Owner: Vail Resorts.

Size: 23.3 acres.

Zoning: 17.7 acres is zoned “natural area preservation;” 5.6 acres is zoned “housing,” on which only deed-restricted housing can be built.

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