Vail officials to hear latest on Booth Heights, Middle Creek agreement Tuesday
Councilmembers say they won’t approve plan without changes
The majority of the Vail Town Council wants to avoid development on bighorn sheep habitat in an already approved project known as Booth Heights in East Vail.
To do so, the council sees an avenue in executing a development agreement with Triumph Development, the local company which owns the already approved Booth Heights plans. By offering Triumph two other town-owned plots of land for development — plans known as the Middle Creek Project and the Timber Ridge Project — the council hopes Triumph would agree not to carry out the Booth Heights development.
But the clock is ticking to get that agreement settled. Both parties would like to see the Middle Creek Project developed and available for occupancy by no later than November of 2022, and the parties “will actively pursue the adoption of a final development agreement for the Timber Ridge Project by no later than May 1, 2021.”
That creates a key deadline in the council’s March 2 meeting, as the final development agreement for the Middle Creek Project needs to be completed and ready for review by then.
On Feb. 2 a pre-development agreement passed the Town Council, but councilmembers indicated that they will not approve the final development agreement on March 2 if issues presented by dozens of community members are not remedied.
“I will vote for it, tonight, but that development agreement needs to reflect much of the input that was given to us tonight,” said councilmember Kim Langmaid.
“I’ll support the pre-development agreement with the caveat that I really want to see a development agreement that tightens up everything that’s been mentioned this evening,” said councilmember Kevin Foley.
In a lengthy comment session from members of the public, numerous concerns over the pre-development agreement were raised.
Several citizens made suggestions to revise the development agreement; many comments pertained to the already approved Booth Heights project plans, which could be used to execute that development.
Merv Lapin suggested the town find a nonprofit or charitable organization to take control of the plans. Larry Stewart said the development agreement should stipulate that Triumph can not sell the plans to anyone else.
“We shouldn’t have to resort to reliance on somebody’s assurances, which are unenforceable if they’re not in the contract,” Stewart said. “It ought to be spelled out clearly in the contract.”
Stewart, who is an attorney, also said Triumph should be required to release all of its approvals back to the town upon approval of a development agreement.
“All of this should be made expressly part of the consideration for this contract, so that if there is any breach, it voids the contract,” Stewart said. “Triumph is getting a super deal here, without any competitive process whatsoever, no request for proposals, no competitive bidding.”
Vail Housing Director George Ruther said there was no competitive bid for the Middle Creek Project because the town wanted to engage Triumph in an effort to keep options open which could prevent development at Booth Heights
“Having Triumph at the table allows us to continue to honor some of those agreements that were in place in hopes of bringing the parties, potentially if they chose to, back to the table at a future date,” Ruther said.
But, as Ruther pointed out, Triumph only owns the approved plans, not the property itself. Property owner Vail Resorts has not been a part of the Booth Heights negotiation in recent months.
“Because the property owner is no longer party to this conversation, this agreement and Booth Heights are on separate paths, and separate pathways forward,” Ruther said.
‘Two meetings to get it right’
The Booth Heights development was mentioned in the Middle Creek pre-development agreement passed Feb. 2, and one paragraph in particular was problematic for several residents requesting public comments on the matter.
“So long as development agreements for both the Middle Creek Project and the Timber Ridge Project have been executed by the Town and Triumph, Triumph hereby agrees that it will not pursue any development that would otherwise be permitted under the development applications filed with and approved by the Town in PEC19-0018, PEC19-0019 and DRB19-0625 (the “Booth Heights Project”),” the agreement reads.
However, “Triumph acknowledges that, if the Town is presented with applications to proceed with the Booth Heights Project, and such applications comply with all applicable Town regulations and the approved development plans for the Booth Heights Project, the Town will not be in a position to deny such applications, regardless of who asserts an ownership interest in such approved development plans,” the pre-development agreement reads.
Attorney Nina Kazazian, issuing a public comment, said that the language referencing the town’s inability to deny the Booth Heights Project under different ownership suggests that Vail Resorts is still manipulating the agreement, contrary to the company’s position that it is not currently involved in the negotiations.
“It sounds sort of obvious that Vail Resorts is not out of the picture, that they’re using Triumph as the conduit,” Kazazian said.
Councilmember Jen Mason joined the chorus of those saying they will not vote in favor of the project on March 2 if the issues raised by the public are not addressed.
“We have two meetings to get it right,” Mason said.
One of those meetings is coming up on Tuesday.
In the council’s afternoon meeting, scheduled for 3 p.m., Town Manager Scott Robson will present “an update on the progress being made related to the development of deed restricted housing on Lot 3, Middle Creek,” according to the Town Council packet, published Friday. “The Town continues to negotiate the terms and timeline of the project taking into consideration input from the community). A final development agreement and ground lease will be presented at the March 2 council meeting for consideration.”