Vail residents have questions about Booth Heights agreement
Some residents say the draft agreement is too complex; others wonder if development still possible on controversial site
- Continuing: A multi-year process to complete wildfire fuels reduction and habitat improvements at Booth Heights.
- Aug. 4: Grant approval extending entitlements for Booth Heights housing.
- March 1, 2021: Approvals for new homes at Middle Creek.
- Sept. 15, 2021:Negotiate an option to redevelop the western half of the Timber Ridge apartments.
- Nov. 2022: Complete construction of new housing at Middle Creek.
Everything has been complicated about the Booth Heights property in East Vail. Some residents say replacing a housing project there should be more simple.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday took public comment on a draft memorandum of understanding between the town, Vail Resorts and Triumph Development. Vail Resorts owns the property, and Triumph Development has a purchase contract on the property and moved a workforce housing project through the town’s approval process.
A proposed non-binding agreement would ultimately transfer ownership of the East Vail property to the town. Triumph would build a project at least the same size as the already-approved Booth Heights on a town-owned parcel just east of the Middle Creek Village apartments. Triumph would also have the first option to bid on replacing the existing Timber Ridge apartment complex.
The draft of the deal goes much farther than that, though, and includes language on forest health on the property on and surrounding Booth Heights. The draft agreement also contains language on deed-restricted housing elsewhere in Vail and, perhaps, elsewhere in the valley. The agreement in its current form would also require years of work before Vail Resorts transfers the East Vail property to the town.
The complexity of the draft proposal drew much of the attention of those who provided live comments during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Simplify the deal
Vail resident Larry Stewart complimented the council for making the draft agreement available to the public.
But, he added, elements of the plan need to be separated into different documents.
Stewart said the town needs a separate housing master plan for housing.
“There are other ways to accomplish (town goals),” Stewart said.
Stewart added that language about looking at housing options on the middle bench of Donovan Park should be removed from the current draft of the agreement.
Former Vail Mayor Rob Ford agreed. Ford in 1999 resigned from his position due to the outcry over a proposal to build housing on the Donovan Park site.
Ford said the town created a housing master plan in the late 1990s, a document which “has gained dust ever since.”
Ford said he supports the draft agreement, and hoped his comments “may be helpful to avoid the pitfalls that are coming your way.”
Others wanted a more simple plan to ensure the survival of a bighorn sheep herd that uses the area north of Interstate 70 as winter range.
Resident Pete Feistmann said the agreement should put the East Vail property into the town’s hands as soon as the first job is done, when housing at the Middle Creek site opens in November of 2022.
It’s about the sheep
Resident Blondie Vucich said the agreement needs to be more focused on the wildlife.
“This is 100% about the sheep,” Vucich said of her questions about the proposed agreement. Vucich questioned whether there’s a chance the Booth Heights site could be developed if a 4,400-acre habitat and forest health project is complete.
Vucich said the Booth Heights parcel, while small compared to the habitat project’s goal, “offers much-needed nourishment” to the sheep at critical times.
Vucich also questioned the number of non-public executive sessions the town has been holding. Those sessions are allowed to discuss legal matters, personnel issues and real estate negotiations.
Tom Vucich said the number of executive sessions has resulted in “no public knowledge of your views.”
Mayor Dave Chapin said the closed sessions are essential as the agreement negotiations continue.
“These are complex real estate negotiations,” Chapin said. “Some of these things can’t be negotiated in public.”
The council will take more public comment moving forward, and Chapin said he appreciates all of it.
“That’s why we’re going to get to a good place with all of this,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.