What’s next for East Vail parcel as Town Council eyes condemnation

Vail Design Review Board set to review plan updates

A Vail Resorts-owned parcel in East Vail eyed for workforce housing has to pass muster with the Vail Design Review Board — unless the Vail Town Council votes to condemn the property.
Chris Dillmann/Daily archive photo

This story has been corrected to reflect bihorn sheep use of the East Vail housing parcel.

The East Vail workforce housing project formerly known as Booth Heights is back. How the project progresses is still an open question.

Vail Resorts, which owns the 23-acre parcel just north of the Interstate 70 East Vail interchange, announced in early April that it plans to build workforce housing on the site.

The company, which over the past several years has outsourced development projects to third party firms, has taken on this project, and has hired OZ Architecture to work on the design. The original design drawings have remained with Triumph Development, which once had a purchase contract on the property.

The 2019 project was ultimately approved on a 4-3 vote by the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission — and survived a subsequent appeal to the Vail Town Council, also by a 4-3 vote — as well as the Vail Design Review Board. But the project has to return to the Vail Design Review Board because of changes to the original plan. The first meeting to discuss those changes is scheduled for May 4.

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But the Vail Town Council on May 3 is expected to see a resolution that would be the first step in a town attempt to acquire the property from Vail Resorts.

While Vail Resorts has stated it wants to start construction this year, either of the town actions could delay that.

If council members decide to launch condemnation proceedings, the matter will end up in court one way or another. Condemnation requires independent property appraisals from both the property owner and the local government seeking to purchase the land. A final determination is made by a District Court judge.

The Design Review Board is scheduled to look at a number of changes to the original plan.

The current submittal, from OZ Architects, anticipates a number of changes to the project. Changes include phasing the project, which had originally been set to be built in one phase.

According to the documents submitted to the town, the rental housing associated with the project would be built first, in order to keep the project in compliance with town requirements in the “housing” zone district.

Other changes include adjusting the design of the buildings and the landscape plan to better fit with the wildlife mitigation plan approved for the project.

That plan drew criticism from residents opposed to the project due to its potential impact on a herd of bighorn sheep that uses the area. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Devin Duval said the sheep frequently move through the area. The approval also didn’t include much of the recommendations of a trio of wildlife biologists hired to evaluate the project.

That trio suggested that the best thing for the bighorn and other wildlife in the area would be finding a different building site.

That report, though, was part of the impetus for a broader project that anticipates wildlife habitat and fire mitigation work on more than 3,000 acres of land on the north side of I-70 ranging from roughly the East Vail interchange to the town’s public works facility, located north of the interstate and roughly between the East Vail and Main Vail interchanges.

That project has required the town, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to work together on plans and approvals. Work on that project could start this year.

Four recommendations

Wildlife biologists Gene Byrne, Rick Kahn and Melanie Woolever in 2019 prepared a report on the East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision. Here are four of the trio’s “high importance” recommendations:

• Obtain a conservation easement on the 17.9-acre portion of the property zoned for preservation.

• Prohibit trails to the preservation area, as well as adjacent town-owned and U.S. Forest Service property.

• Schedule earth moving and major construction for summer months.

• Ban dogs, domestic sheep and domestic goats from the development area.

Source: Town of Vail

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