Town of Vail to offer Vail Resorts $12 million for East Vail parcel

Condemnation procedures continue with a pending offer from the town

The Vail Town Council voted on Tuesday evening to offer $12 million to Vail Resorts for an East Vail parcel, continuing condemnation of the parcel in order to protect the bighorn sheep habitat that's on the site.
Rick Spitzer/For the Vail Daily

The Vail Town Council voted Tuesday evening to offer $12 million to Vail Resorts for the purchase of the much-contested Booth Heights property in East Vail. The offer marks the next step in the town’s condemnation of the 23.3-acre parcel in East Vail.

The offer is based upon the advice of multiple expert consultants the town has retained,” said Mayor Kim Langmaid at Tuesday’s meeting. “We believe it is an extremely generous offer and we hope Vail Resorts will accept the town’s offer and start to work with us collaboratively again on housing and many other issues facing our community.”

The offer, Langmaid added, exceeds the town’s previous offer — made in March of last year — “by over 50%.”

The decision came following an executive session earlier Tuesday and passed via a 2022 supplemental budget appropriation. Council members voted 5-1 — with Mayor Pro Tem Travis Coggin dissenting — to reallocate real estate transfer tax funds for the $12 million offer.

Coggin said his decision to dissent was because didn’t believe this was the “right tactic.”

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“I’m disappointed that we are where we are,” Coggin said. “I do hope that as a community we can get past this hopefully, sooner than later.”

This vote passed the ordinance of the supplemental budget appropriation on first reading, and so will need to be passed on second reading to go into effect. However, via another vote of the council earlier in the evening, Interim Town Manager Stan Zemler has been directed to send the offer to purchase the Booth Heights property to Vail Resorts.

Langmaid said that this decision reflects the council’s findings and determination that “the acquisition of unencumbered fee title to the Booth Heights big horn sheep habitat land for open space is necessary and serves a public use and purpose.”

So continues the condemnation procedure, which kicked off in the spring when the council voted 4-3 to begin condemnation proceedings on the East Vail property.

Since then, the town and corporation have exchanged multiple letters — with the town asking for collaboration on other housing projects in town and Vail Resorts asking the town to reconsider condemnation.

In August, Vail Town Council passed — via emergency ordinance — a moratorium on new permits on the site. Which, in September, prompted the company to file a complaint in Eagle County District Court, accusing the town of improper use of the emergency ordinance process in doing so.

Langmaid described this process — not just during the past year, but also for the past five years — as “frustrating.”

“Despite what Vail Resorts has said publicly, they have refused thus far to negotiate in good faith regarding this property. Instead, Vail Resorts has chosen to sue the town and have made numerous Colorado open records requests to the point of harassment,” she said.

“I just want to remind everyone that we did offer to trade the land right here where Residences at Main Vail will be opening next fall, providing housing for I believe it’s 144 people, so they could’ve had that could they have wanted to,” Langmaid added.

Multiple residents on Tuesday evening spoke in support of the council’s decision, calling for Vail Resorts to accept the offer.

“I want to encourage, publicly, Vail Resorts to live up to its Epic Promise that it would not harm the environment, that it would do no damage to wildlife in this area,” said Vail resident Mike Browning. “I urge Vail Resorts to get back to the table and negotiate in good faith for a new property, or even donate it to the town — they’d get a huge tax write-off, get a lot of goodwill and show this community that they actually care about community sentiment as well. I would encourage Vail Resorts to reconsider its current posture.”

One community member and town resident, Mark Gordon, spoke in opposition of the council’s decision to make the offer to Vail Resorts.

Gordon said that there were others who were also opposed either were not able to show up due to work obligations or felt that “this was a foregone conclusion and no matter what they would do and say up here, they would just be represented or talked about as either stooges of Vail Resorts or as people who are against wildlife, who are anti-environmental, who are against the sheep.”

“There is a large segment of the community that’s disappointed in the decision that was made tonight,” Gordon said. “This is way too big of an issue, way too big of a number for it to just be a quick vote and move forward.”

Council member Pete Seibert addressed this comment in his remarks ahead of the vote, emphasizing that being pro-environment is not mutually exclusive with being anti-housing (and vice-versa).

Ultimately, Langmaid in her closing comments said that this comes down to protecting not only the sheep, but the “town’s enduring vision to grow a vibrant, diverse economy and preserve our natural surrounding environment.”

Our guests really want us to stand for something more than just the ordinary mountain resort. They want experiences with things that money can’t buy. The bighorn sheep is really what makes Vail special. It is really the most prominent, watchable wildlife in this valley, especially in winter but now more so, even in the summer,” Langmaid said. “Their habitat and the herd are irreplaceable.”

With the offer of $12 million going out to the corporation, council members as well as community members expressed a desire for the town and Vail Resorts to move forward — not only from this matter but toward other housing projects.

As for the company itself, according to a written statement to the Vail Daily from Vail Resorts on Wednesday, Sept. 21, it “learned about a potential offer for the first time at the hearing last night.”

“We remain committed to our goal to bring incremental and urgently-needed affordable housing to our community,” the statement continued.

“Here’s the thing that I’ve been disappointed in … all of those (housing) opportunities that were just named that we are going to move forward on, could’ve been done with Vail Resorts as a partner. The negotiations have been practically Orwellian; we don’t speak the same language, they’re not communicating in good faith, they’re not listening,” Seibert said.

“I hope that they’ll accept our offer — it’s more than generous. And then we could go back and if they do intend to actually do something about housing, let’s go,” he added.

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