Squabble between Vail, Vail Resorts over parcel’s value will continue to fifth day in court

By Friday, both entitles rested their initial cases before Vail Resorts launched its final rebuttal

Charlie Hegarty testifies in the Eagle County District Court on Friday, Sept. 8. Hegarty was one of the valuation experts that testified over the course of the valuation hearing between the town of Vail and Vail Resorts.
Ali Longwell/Vail Daily

EAGLE — The valuation hearing between the town of Vail and Vail Resorts will enter its fifth and final day on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Eagle County District Court. At the conclusion of the hearing, the three-member commission will determine the “fair market value” of the Booth Heights parcel in East Vail, which has been at the center of the condemnation proceedings.

The commission will ultimately determine the amount the town must pay for the 23-acre parcel — which consists of 5.4 acres zoned and entitled for housing and 17.9 acres zoned for Natural Area Preservation. The valuation hearing for the parcel started Tuesday, Sept. 5. Both the town and Vail Resorts brought forth appraisers to testify on the fair market value for the site.

At the conclusion of Friday, the hearing’s fourth day, both the town and Vail Resorts had completed their initial presentations of evidence, and the corporation had just begun presenting its rebuttal case. When the hearing resumes next Wednesday, Vail Resorts will complete its rebuttal case before both entities present their closing arguments and deliberation by the commission can begin.

The commissioners will have as long as they need to deliberate and determine the parcel’s market value.

Comparing numbers

The majority of the hearing and testimony over the four days has been centered on the different amounts and how each appraiser came to their ultimate conclusion of value.

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Vail Resort’s estimated value of just over $23 million was based on the appraisal from David Clayton, president of real estate appraisal firm Clayton and Company.  

The town of Vail’s value range came from two appraisals: the first from K.C. Vigoren, a senior vice president at appraisal firm Principal Valuation Partners, who valued the parcel at $12.93 million; and the second from Charlie Hegarty, president of appraisal firm Hegarty & Gerken Appraisers, who valued the parcel at $11,081,000.  

While each appraiser arrived at different ultimate values for the East Vail site, they all followed a “sales comparison approach” to determine what they viewed as the site’s fair market value. Each walked through their specific process in detail while on the stand.

Using this approach, each appraiser selected several real estate sales they had determined were comparable to the East Vail site based on what they saw as the site’s “highest and best use.” Each also made their own adjustments for attributes such as market conditions, location, entitlements, zoning, topography and more in order to essentially equalize the comparable property with the conditions of the Booth Heights parcel.

All also made a time adjustment to determine what the value of the property would be on July 10, 2023 — the “date of value” set by the court.

While each attribute was discussed and considered important to the overall different values concluded by the appraisers, the difference in location adjustments stood out as “one of the bigger issues in this case,” stated Patrick Wilson, representing the town, on Thursday. Jack Sperber, representing Vail Resorts, agreed, stating it was “one of the most significant issues.”

In addition to Clayton, Vail Resorts relied on additional testimony to support its case. This included testimony from Bill Rock, the president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division, who provided testimony on the history of the parcel; Robert Pratt, from Demand Construction services, who testified about how he created cost estimates for bringing basic utilities and paved access to the parcel.  

The town of Vail also called Tom Kassmel, the town’s engineer, and Matt Gennett, its community development director, also both provided testimony. Kassmel spoke on development plans for Booth Heights as well as his views on the costs needed to get the site “development-ready.” Gennett spoke to the entitlements of the property, its zoning, and then about the town’s supply of employee housing.

At the end of Friday, after the town rested its case, Vail Resorts was given an opportunity to present its rebuttal case — having rested its initial case earlier in the week. It began by putting Robert Noesner, a senior vice president at National Valuation Consultants, on the stand to provide testimony rebutting both of the town’s appraisals.

On Wednesday, Vail Resorts is expected to put two more witnesses on the stand, including Clayton as well as engineer Aaron Clutter, with his opinion of construction costs.

What’s ahead

Following the commission’s ultimate determination of value, the Vail Town Council will determine its willingness to pay that amount.

The town has already provided a deposit of $12 million in accordance with Eagle County District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman’s June 30, 2023 order. This order granted the town immediate possession of the Booth Heights parcel, which the town has stated it will convert to open space to preserve it as habitat for the area’s bighorn sheep herd.

This $12 million deposited is the same amount the town offered Vail Resorts for the property in September 2022, prior to its filing of a motion for immediate possession in the district court in October. The town previously made an offer of $7.8 million in March 2022 for the same parcel. Both offers were rejected.

On Friday, Wilson indicated that as the matter represents a “big public interest decision,” the Town Council wants to have a public process.

“They need to have a public process to go forward with this or not, because if it’s a large verdict, it’s going to require sacrifices,” Wilson said. “The Town Council is going to try to make a decision on that but it wants to have a public process.”

Kris Widlak, the town’s communications director, previously indicated to the Vail Daily that the valuation hearing “could result in an amount the council decides is not in the community’s best interest to pay.”

Additionally, following the hearing, “both parties would have the right to appeal any final judgment entered,” Widlak added.

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