O’Connor: Booth Heights is a better project because of your feedback | VailDaily.com

O’Connor: Booth Heights is a better project because of your feedback

Michael O'Connor
Valley Voices

As we prepare for our fourth meeting with the town of Vail’s Planning and Environmental Commission on Monday, I wanted to give the community an update on our proposed plan for Booth Heights. I also want to thank the many residents and business operators who have taken the time to review and comment on our plan. 

Our plan today reflects the work and thoughtful input of town staff and commissioners over the past 10 weeks. We thank everyone for this effort — our plan is better for your feedback. 

When I last wrote to the Vail Daily at the beginning of the summer, I emphasized our goal of making Booth Heights a model for environmentally responsible development.  Our goal has always been to balance the protection of wildlife with the tremendous need for housing for locals in our community. 

We believe the changes to our development application over the past two months have advanced this goal substantially. There have been changes to the plan itself — increasing the amount of parking, improvements for pedestrian safety, and even prompting the town to consider a new sidewalk under the East Vail underpass.

Most importantly, through the input of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and a roundtable of wildlife biologists hired by the town, we have modified our original plans to ensure the protection of wildlife. For almost a month now, this group has worked together and reached agreement on specific changes that could be made to our Wildlife Mitigation Plan. 

Some of the most important changes were made possible by Vail opening the door for enhancement on public lands that are higher-quality bighorn sheep winter range than our site. In addition, the group recommended a list of other changes — limiting site construction to the summer and fall, creating a conservation easement on 18 acres of our property, prohibiting short-term rentals, even offering to fund CPW’s supplemental feeding of the herd in the event of a bad winter if they deem that appropriate. We are happy to incorporate the vast majority of these recommended changes into our plan.  

This same group of experts has also recommended a framework and list of actions that our community can pursue to help wildlife in the region — including the public lands in the Booth Creek vicinity so important to bighorn sheep. Triumph is proposing to provide the seed money for this initiative with the hopes that the town of Vail or others in our community will partner with us to create a permanent, funded entity that is dedicated to helping wildlife in our valley. Regardless of your feelings about our proposal, it is the right thing to do and Triumph is happy to do its part.

In closing, I’d like to acknowledge that we have heard the concerns of the East Vail community. Developing housing anywhere in our valley is difficult. Look no further than Minturn’s recent rejection of a water deal with a developer as just one example of how hard it is to make a housing project for locals a reality — so many things need to fall into place for a neighborhood to be built. 

The Booth Heights property is the only undeveloped housing district property in the town of Vail and one of the very rare opportunities to create housing because it is a use-by-right for the site. Given the nearby important wildlife habitat, any development needs to be done responsibly and we have made great progress in devising a good plan with the help of many experts. 

While some of our critics maintain that “this is not the right place for housing,” I choose to think how this new neighborhood can be a powerful statement about Vail’s commitment to growing a sustainable community — just like Chamonix Vail — although with no subsidy from the Town. We look forward to working with the town and its stakeholders to make it a reality.

Michael O’Connor is the principal and chief operating officer of Triumph Development in Vail.