East Vail parcel developer questions wildlife reports | VailDaily.com

East Vail parcel developer questions wildlife reports

'If you were trying to create confusion, this is what you’d do,' Triumph's Michael O’Connor says

The blue shaded area in this map is an estimate of the winter range near Vail of a herd of bighorn sheep. The triangle in the lower right of the image is the proposed Booth Heights property. The oval to the west is the Vail town shops property.
Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife
What’s Booth Heights?
  • A 23.3-acre parcel in east Vail owned by Vail Resorts. Triumph Development has the property under contract.
  • Triumph is proposing a 73-unit housing project on 5.4 acres of the parcel.
  • The proposal includes rental, deed-restricted for-sale townhomes and free-market townhomes.
  • The proposal is currently under consideration by the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission.
  • The next meeting is set for July 22 at 1 p.m.

VAIL — After hours of presentations and public comments at Monday’s Vail Planning and Environmental Commission hearing about the proposed Booth Heights housing project, Triumph Development Chief Operating Officer Michael O’Connor asked to speak.

O’Connor used those few moments to express his displeasure with a handful of environmental reports that had been submitted shortly before the meeting.

“I was extremely frustrated with the timeline,” O’Connor said, adding that the town had apparently hired three wildlife biologists without informing Triumph.

Those biologists’ reports, along with a letter from Matt Yamashita, Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager, drew a good bit of public comment at Monday’s hearing.

Resident Larry Stewart called the reports a “game changer” for evaluation of the project.

O’Connor acknowledged the value of reports from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and that of Gene Byrne, a retired biologist who spent about 30 years working for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

But O’Connor termed two of the documents — from biologists Rick Kahn and Melanie Woolever — “generic feedback.”

“You might as well have hired someone from Canada,” O’Connor said. “If you were trying to create confusion, this is what you’d do.”

The reports from Byrne and Yamashita both take a close look at the report prepared for Triumph by biologist Rick Thompson, of Western Ecosystems.

Yamashita’s report concurs with Thompson’s recommendations to close the area around the proposed Booth Heights development, as well as limiting pet ownership. The report concludes by encouraging a “comprehensive” look at the area around the 23.3-acre East Vail parcel. That look should include an investigation into the potential wildlife impacts of renovations and additions at the town shops property just to the west. That town-owned property is also being looked at as a potential housing site.

Byrne’s response to Thompson’s report also has several areas of agreement, although he wrote that the developer’s proposal for enforcing restrictions on the parcel could be “problematic.”

In his conclusion, Byrne wrote, “If the town of Vail approves this development, the measures proposed (by Triumph) should be adopted and the restriction on the human use of the area should be followed and enforced.”

As Monday’s meeting neared its end, commission members, who will hold at least two more hearings on the proposal, mostly said they aren’t ready to make a determination for or against Triumph’s plans.

Commission member John-Ryan Lockman said the wildlife plan probably needs more time to refine.

“The developer has done a good job and put good faith in the process,” Lockman said. “The more we can decrease (wildlife) impact, the better.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

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