Vail residents urge council to take action on Booth Heights land |

Vail residents urge council to take action on Booth Heights land

A total of 35 current and former residents sign letter encouraging mediation or condemnation

The Booth Heights parcel in East Vail.
Daily file photo

A large group of Vail residents has called for the town of Vail and Vail Resorts to take action to preserve the Booth Heights parcel in East Vail from future development.

The group recently sent the Vail Daily a letter, which was also sent to the council signed by 35 current and former local residents. That letter urges the town and resort company to

In early 2020, town of Vail officials, along with Triumph Development and Vail Resorts, started talking about ways to not build housing on Booth Heights, a 23-acre parcel near the East Vail I-70 interchange. Vail Resorts owns the property, and Triumph had a purchase contract on the land. Triumph in 2019 took a proposal for the site through the town’s approval process. The proposal earned final town approval in October of that year.

Despite myriad details, the idea behind the talks was simple: Vail Resorts would get housing on a different parcel, or parcels, and the Booth Heights site wouldn’t be developed.

By the end of 2020, the three-way talks became two-way talks. Vail Town Manager Scott Robson in December announced that the resort company had “paused” its participation in the talks. Triumph canceled its purchase contract in late 2020.

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In mid-January, Vail Resorts Vice President of Mountain Planning Kyle Griffith sent a letter to the town re-asserting the company’s intent to build housing on the site.

A herd of bighorn sheep has been at the center of the debate over the proposed development of the Booth Heights parcel in East Vail.
Rick Spitzer/Special to the Daily

Letter: try mediation

All that and more led the group of residents to send a letter urging the town and Vail Resorts to pursue first a course of “non-binding mediation” to get the parties’ back on course to preserving the Booth Heights parcel.

Failing that, the undersigned urged the town to pursue condemnation and acquisition of the parcel.

Longtime resident Pete Feistmann said he believes the letter took an appropriate tone.

“It’s terribly important for us to maintain a civil tone when we have disagreements,” Feistmann said. “People can disagree agreeably,” he added, noting that disagreeable disagreements are the “nub of our national problem right now.”

Fellow resident Kaye Ferry said she “reluctantly” signed the letter, adding that “I would have made an even stronger statement.”

Ferry contends that the town has erred because officials “trusted” Vail Resorts. “That’s always a mistake in my opinion,” she said.

Resident Larry Stewart said he signed the letter because he’s “all in favor of trying to do anything to re-engineer this deal,” and hiring a mediator is one way to do that.

The condemnation option

If negotiations fail, though, the residents contacted for this story favor the town acquiring the property through a form of condemnation known as eminent domain. That process involves the purchase of private property for public purposes. The proceedings are done via court action, and include independent appraisals of a piece of property.

Stewart said he “very strongly” believes that the town should pursue that course if negotiations fail.

“The mere fact that the town starts (condemnation proceedings) doesn’t preclude negotiations.

The Vail Town Council so far hasn’t discussed the prospect of exercising that authority.

Councilmember Jenn Bruno said the council has been advised that the town can only begin condemnation proceedings if at least four councilmembers in a public meeting agree to start down that path.

“There’s yet to be four people to do that,” Bruno said.

How we got here

2017: Vail Resorts asks the town of Vail to re-zone a 23 acre parcel in East Vail to accommodate workforce housing.

2019: After months of hearings, Triumph Development, which had a contract to purchase the parcel, earns town approval for a housing project on the land, now known as Booth Heights.

2020: The town, Triumph and Vail Resorts in January agree to negotiate an agreement to keep housing off the parcel.

2020: Triumph late in the year announces it has cancelled its purchase contract.

2020: Vail Resorts in December informs the town it’s “pausing” its participation in the talks.

2021: Vail Resorts informs the town of its intent to build housing on the parcel.

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