Vail, Vail Resorts differ on future of Booth Heights

Vail Resorts states continued desire to build on controversial East Vail parcel

A recent Vail Resorts’ letter to town of Vail officials asserts that the company still wants to build housing on the controversial Booth Heights Parcel.
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Vail Resorts and the town of Vail have very different opinions of the future of the Booth Heights property in East Vail.

In a pair of letters, both dated Jan. 18, the company and the town have laid out those different opinions about the future of workforce housing in town.

In the letter from the company, Vail Resorts Vice President of Mountain Planning Kyle Griffith states that the company still wants to build housing on the 23.3-acre site in addition to other housing efforts in town. Vail Town Manager Scott Robson’s reply letter states that the town wants alternatives instead of Booth Heights, and wants to obtain the property for preservation.

Vail Resorts in 2017 applied to the town to rezone the property. The company essentially rediscovered its ownership of the parcel, which for decades had been on county records as owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

After Vail Resorts rezoned the propery in 2017, Vail-based Triumph Development signed a purchase contract for the property, and developed the Booth Heights plan. That plan was controversial, and passed with 4-3 votes from both the Vail Town Council and the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission.

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After the Vail Town Council upheld the planning board’s 2019 approval of the plan, it was essentially put on hold in early 2020, when town of Vail officials began an effort to find alternative sites for housing.

Looking for options

That effort turned into three-way talks to both find alternatives and prevent future development on the Booth Heights property.

Those talks continued for several months in 2020, although town officials sometimes noted that Vail Resorts wasn’t always involved.

In December of 2020, Vail Resorts announced it was “pausing” its participation in the talks, citing the company’s current need to focus on its resort operations in the COVID-19 pandemic. The town of Vail and Triumph officials continued talking.

That “pause” roughly coincides with Triumph canceling its purchase contract for Booth Heights. The town and Triumph continue to talk, with attention focused for now on a parcel just east of the Middle Creek Village apartments. That parcel is currently home to the Children’s Garden of Learning, which will move later this year into a new home on the southeast side of the Lionshead parking structure.

That move is an essential part of a complex plan to have workforce housing available for move-in by the beginning of the 2022-23 ski season. That housing is supposed to have the same resident capacity — 144 beds — as Booth Heights.

Robson said that’s still the plan for the Middle Creek site.

As that process continues, Griffith’s letter indicates that Vail Resorts is still interested in building at Booth Heights.

That letter states, in part:

“… Vail Resorts is committed to moving forward as soon as possible with the Booth Heights project. We are in the process of seeking a new development partner, and fully expect to proceed without interference, overt or otherwise, from any third party (most importantly, the Town).”

Griffith’s letter also reasserts that Vail Resorts retains ownership of the property.

A different picture

Robson’s letter, send in reply to the one from Griffith, paints a different picture of the town’s intent for the parcel. It reiterates “an offer by the Town to exchange titles between the Booth Heights parcel … and the Middle Creek, Lot 3 parcel owned by the Town of Vail.”

Robson’s letter also reiterates the town’s frustration that “Vail Resorts has not yet substantively or consistently engaged or taken steps toward this initiative over the past 13 months…”

Another rift is between Vail Resorts and Triumph over ownership of the planning documents for Booth Heights.

In a phone conversation, Triumph Development Principal and Chief Operating Officer Michael O’Connor asserted that his firm owns all the intellectual property associated with the Booth Heights application.

Griffith’s letter disagrees with that position, stating, in part, that “… Vail Resorts has every interest in the Plans and Related Material.”

Robson noted that issue is between Vail Resorts and Triumph. But, he added, he believes the town and Triumph can continue to work on the project at Middle Creek independently of Vail Resorts and agreements or disagreements with the development company.

Vail Town Councilmember Kim Langmaid has opposed the idea of housing on the Booth Creek parcel since it was proposed. Most of that opposition stems from the potential affects from development on the bighorn sheep herd that winters in the area.

In a phone conversation, Langmaid said she remains optimistic that all three parties can “come to a win-win.” An agreement would benefit both residents and wildlife, she said.

Langmaid said the town is leaving the door open for Vail Resorts to rejoin the effort to find alternative housing sites. But, she added, the town and Triumph are moving forward on current plans.

“We are on a time crunch,” Langmaid said. “We want to get housing done in a certain amount of time.”

What’s Booth Heights?

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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