Peterson: A tale of two Vails
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
At least it felt that way just after 10:12 p.m. Tuesday in the Vail Town Council chambers after Mayor Dave Chapin cast his deciding vote in favor of upholding the approval of a controversial development called Booth Heights. There were back slaps and hugs among the development team and other proponents of the East Vail project, while the large crowd of vocal opponents shuffled out into the night, heads hung in disbelief.
Good luck finding any middle ground in Vail these days.
Depending on who you ask, this project is either the worst thing to ever happen to Happy Valley or it’s a positive step to help solve Vail’s workforce housing pickle.
It’s either a win for regular Joes or a sure death sentence for the bighorn sheep that winter in the area.
It’s yet another example of the big, bottom-line driven resort company getting what it wants, conflicts of interest be damned, or it’s a town and its biggest partner making meaningful progress on a persistent problem.
There’s no wiggle room. Booth Heights is an all-or-nothing, either-or debate. It has pushed this community to its edges.
At least it sure feels that way.
Either you’re a spoiled NIMBY or you’re a sheep killer.
Either you’re for workforce housing or you aren’t.
Either this project has been thoroughly greased and rammed through the town’s approval process, as opponents claim, or it has undergone a rigorous, public vetting, as the developer claims.
Either Vail Resorts got away with murder for not paying property taxes on the parcel of land for more than four decades or the confusion over who owned the property was just an honest mistake.
Forget Booth Heights — just call it Wuthering Heights for how stormy this whole ordeal has been.
And don’t think the clouds are lifting anytime soon. No friggin’ way. After Chapin’s deciding vote, Vail Town Council Member Kim Langmaid said she’d like to schedule a future discussion about a possible town purchase of the property, as well as future discussions with Vail Resorts on options to build workforce housing in town.
Could there be a deal struck yet? Would the developer or Vail Resorts even consider one, given all the shrapnel they’ve taken? Or, despite all the letters to the paper, and the impassioned pleas in public meetings, will the bulldozers arrive in East Vail next summer?
The only certainty after Tuesday night’s vote is that the two sides couldn’t be farther apart. That’s especially true when it comes to the difference of opinions over the fate of the beleaguered bighorn herd, whose numbers have dropped in the last decade to below 50 sheep — about to 5% of the herd’s historic numbers.
Has Vail just decided to kill off its iconic herd? Or will the sheep prosper under the public-private mitigation efforts funded by the developer?
Everybody’s got an opinion, including the wildlife experts commissioned by the town who agreed the best option was to build somewhere else.
But it’s the votes of the elected officials who will dictate Vail’s future.
And that one vote by Chapin, an either-or decision, for sure, ensures that there will be no unity in Happy Valley anytime soon.
Get used to those clouds.
Editor Nate Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.