Vail planning board to look at environmental factors in East Vail proposal
Environmental, wildlife issues have been some of project critics' most frequent worries
VAIL — Monday’s hearing on the proposed Booth Heights development will focus on environmental issues, which should draw a large crowd.
The proposal, submitted by Vail-based Triumph Development, calls for 73 units of rental and for-sale housing on a 5.4 acre parcel just north of the Interstate 70 East Vail interchange. Triumph has a contract to purchase the property, which is owned by Vail Resorts.
Vail Resorts in 2017 rezoned the property. The original zoning would have allowed duplex development on the entire site. The new zoning splits the parcel. In that split, 5.4 acres are in the “housing” zone, which requires developers to deed-restrict 70% of the residential square footage. The remaining 30% can be sold at free market prices in order to subsidize the deed-restricted portion.
The larger portion of the parcel — 17.9 acres — is now in the “natural area preservation” zone, one of the town’s most restrictive in terms of what can be done with the property.
Ideas for building on the parcel have drawn strong criticism since the rezoning was proposed. Critics have been particularly worried about the fate of a dwindling herd of bighorn sheep. Part of the parcel is in those animals’ critical winter range.
Triumph has commissioned both wildlife and environmental studies for the parcel, and has included plans to preserve the property as part of its development plan.
Those studies will be the focus of the July 8 hearing, along with possible traffic impacts and rockfall mitigation on the steep site.
During the proposal’s June 24 initial public hearing, Planning and Environmental Commission Chairman Brian Stockmar told the full room that there will be at least three hearings on the proposal, with each hearing maintaining a relatively narrow focus.
First look at wildlife mitigation
The environmental and wildlife mitigation reports will get a first detailed airing Monday.
At the June 24 meeting, commission member Rollie Kjesbo said the environmental report will be an important part of the overall review of the project.
Wildlife preservation isn’t an issue limited to the Booth Heights proposal.
At a July 2 work session with the Vail Town Council, District Ranger Aaron Mayville talked with council members about how that agency may — or may not — be able to help with a wildlife habitat restoration project in the area.
Part of an area identified for wildlife habitat work — particularly prescribed burning — is in a wilderness area. Federal rules don’t allow prescribed burns for wildlife habitat in wilderness.
“It’s going to be a hurdle we need to clear,” Mayville told council members.
Another project looming
Council members also talked about the potential effects on wildlife habitat of a proposed plan for renovations, possible workforce housing and, perhaps, solar energy panels at the town’s public works facility. That site is on the north side of I-70 roughly across from the Vail Golf Club.
Noting all those plans in the same area, as well as the prospect of burying overhead power lines in the area, Vail Town Council member Kim Langmaid wondered if the town could find a way to take a broad view of the entire area.
But those discussions are in the foreseeable future. For now, expect a full room Monday, along with a long discussion.
After Monday’s meeting, the next Booth Heights discussion by the Planning and Environmental Commission will probably be Aug. 12, when the board will discuss plan revisions that came from the first two meetings.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.