Vail Resorts pullout causes ‘pivot’ on town of Vail housing plans
Vail Resorts’ position on Booth Heights forces new tactics
Town of Vail officials have been working for more than a year on a plan for alternatives to the controversial Booth Heights workforce housing project, a complicated idea. Things have become more complicated in the last few months.
In December, Vail Resorts “paused” its participation in three-way talks — which included the town, the resort company and Triumph Development — to find alternatives to Booth Heights. That announcement roughly coincided with Triumph canceling its purchase contract for the 23-acre parcel in East Vail.
In January, Vail Resorts Vice President of Mountain Planning Kyle Griffith in a letter to town officials stated the company’s intent to develop housing on the site.
Vail Town Manager Scott Robson Tuesday afternoon said that letter and other developments have caused the town to “pivot” in its approach, to “focus on what we can accomplish” regarding workforce housing in town.
That pivot no longer includes the resort company, with the focus now turning to a development agreement with Triumph. A draft of that agreement — a “predevelopment agreement” — was approved Feb. 2 by the Vail Town Council. A final version of that agreement is set for discussion at the council’s March 2 meeting. A copy of that agreement is expected to be available for public review in the next few days, Robson said.
A ‘disappointing’ turn
During an update to the council, Robson said he’s “personally disappointed” that all the elements of the housing alternatives project won’t come to pass without Vail Resorts’ participation.
“But we cannot, and should not,” stop work, Robson added.
For now, the town needs to continue to work with Triumph on the idea for developing a site at the Middle Creek subdivision.
If built, the Middle Creek site would be home to roughly 150 beds of workforce housing. Triumph is also interested in redeveloping the west half of the Timber Ridge property. Early ideas call for at least 200 housing units at that site, not quite double the number of units now on the site.
The town’s work over the past year has primarily been in executive sessions. Those sessions are closed to the public and are reserved for legal and personnel matters.
During the Tuesday evening meeting’s time for resident participation, resident Larry Stewart said the town has been doing too much work behind closed doors.
“We the public have no knowledge and no input,” Stewart said, adding that residents “don’t know how” to challenge decisions made in those sessions.
Those sessions “have become an increasingly frustrating aspect of the conduct of the government,” Stewart said.
Stewart urged the council to scale back those closed meetings so the public can “contribute in a meaningful way.”
Resident Tom Vucich noted that in one of those closed meetings the council for the moment has rejected the idea of using condemnation to buy the Booth Heights property from Vail Resorts.
Several residents at the Feb. 2 meeting urged the council to pursue condemnation proceedings to acquire the property.
“I don’t think you should take (condemnation) off the table,” Vucich said.
While there’s currently an approved plan for Booth Heights, the council may act to rescind a recent extension of development entitlements on the property. Robson said council at its March 2 meeting will see a resolution to take that action.
Councilmember Kevin Foley suggested that banning frontage road parking might be another way to get the resort company’s attention.
“It seems we’re only benefitting one business — Vail Resorts,” by allowing frontage road parking, Foley said.
Councilmember Kim Langmaid agreed with Foley.
“I would like to see (Vail Resorts) partner with us on housing since we’re partnering with them on parking,” she said.