How will Vail fund potential purchase of East Vail parcel?

Costs of the likely condemnation aren't laid out in 2023 budget

The town of Vail hasn't yet identified how it's going to pay the costs of the condemnation of the East Vail land formerly known as Booth Heights.
Daily archive photo

If Vail acquires the controversial East Vail housing parcel formerly known as Booth Heights, where will the money come from?

The Vail Town Council held an Aug. 16 work session to talk about the 2023 budget. There was talk about forecasts — including slight declines from this year in the lift and lodging taxes as well as the town’s real estate transfer tax.

Even with an expected flattening or slight decline in some funds, the town still has large cash reserves. Town policy is to keep a 35% cushion in its reserves. With that cushion factored in, the town is expected to have more than $76 million in reserve funds in 2023.

During the discussion, Council member Barry Davis noted that there was nothing in writing about what the East Vail condemnation process might cost.

The town is seeking to acquire via condemnation the 23-acre parcel from Vail Resorts, which has stated its intent to build housing on the parcel.

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Both the town and the resort company will bring independent appraisals to the process, which could end up in court, with a judge making the final determination of the price. Town Attorney Matt Mire said the town should have an appraisal number in hand by Sept. 6.

Town Finance Director Carlie Smith acknowledged that the condemnation process is currently unfunded.

Town Manager Stan Zemler said the town doesn’t want to put a number to the acquisition, which is still subject to negotiation.

“I’d be cautious about saying we’re going to set (a specific amount) aside,” Zemler said. That will change as the process continues, he said.

Part of the funds needed for the buy will come from the town’s 1% real estate transfer tax.

Mayor Kim Langmaid said residents frequently remind her that the transfer tax was created for open space acquisition. But over the years the town has put that money to other uses as fewer open space parcels were available for sale.

“I think we’ll get serious pushback if we say we don’t have the funds,” Langmaid said, adding that town officials need to sum up what transfer tax funds are used for now, and how that spending can be offset.

Smith said she can come back to the Town Council with a few scenarios for funding the acquisition. Those scenarios will probably involve draining the transfer tax account with some money taken from the town’s general fund.

The council is expected to see the first draft of the town’s budget by Nov. 1.

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