Vail Town Council upholds Booth Heights decision
Council determines that Aug. 26 Planning and Environmental Commission decision was appropriate
VAIL — The Vail Town Council on Tuesday night upheld the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission’s Aug. 26 approval of an East Vail workforce housing plan.
Council members voted to uphold the Booth Heights housing proposal by a 4-3 vote around 10:15 p.m. at the end of a charged public meeting that lasted over four hours. Travis Coggin, Greg Moffet, Jenn Bruno and Mayor Dave Chapin voted to uphold the decision. Council members Kim Langmaid, Kevin Foley and Jen Mason voted against the motion.
Earlier in the night, seven residents appealed the PEC’s approval of the plan and laid out a variety of reasons why the Vail Town Council should reverse that decision.
Matt Mire, town attorney, gave council members a narrow task: assess whether the planning board had erred in its August decision. That decision was a narrow approval on a 4-3 vote.
Several of the appellants cited their worries about traffic on the frontage road.
Anthony and Cindy Ryerson worried that the increase in traffic created by the project could affect safe access to their home. Anthony Ryerson noted that Vail Pass will close many times during a winter. That turns the area around the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange into a crowded and potentially dangerous area.
That traffic affects all of East Vail, Anthony Ryerson said.
Anthony Ryerson and others noted that the traffic study for the project was done on Dec. 30, 2017. Vail Mountain School wasn’t in session at the time, he said. In addition, there were pass restrictions in effect on Vail Mountain, and Colorado was in what Anthony Ryerson called “the worst snow drought since 1976.”
East Vail resident Penny Turilli and others said they believe the Booth Heights plan has been rushed through the town process.
Turilli said safety, both in terms of traffic and geology, were her primary concerns.
“The mountains move,” Turilli said, likening the geology to a game of Jenga, in which moving pieces from the base cause the tower to fall.
Turilli said she’s concerned about rockfalls and debris flows.
Several of the appellants said they are concerned about the addition of hundreds of new residents in the neighborhood and the effect that will have on the town’s bus system.
Appellant Debbie Ford said there could be as many as 458 residents in the 30 apartment units — with two people per bedroom and another two on sofas.
Jonathan Spence, town planner, confirmed that maximum.
Ford noted that current bus service can only handle an additional 80 passengers.
All the appellants worried about the bighorn sheep herd that uses the area around Booth Heights as winter range.
Triumph Development Chief Operating Officer Michael O’Connor said much of the appellants’ testimony didn’t provide any new information.
O’Connor said Booth Heights meets the town’s criteria, from transportation to traffic to wildlife.
“I’m here to outline a plan that meets all the requirements of the town code,” he said. “I’m afraid this hearing is one final attempt to draw out the review process because they don’t want it in their backyard.”
O’Connor said Booth Heights is responsible for pedestrian and traffic circulation within its boundaries and is taking crucial steps to ensure the survival of the sheep herd.
“We’ve taken the environmental concerns to heart,” O’Connor said, adding that Triumph has pledged $100,000 to a mitigation plan. That plan, he said, will have to take steps on public land not within the boundaries of the property.
O’Connor said Booth Heights “fits the development pattern in East Vail.” In fact, he added, density on the site is lower than in other rental townhome properties in the area.
Responding to claims that the process has been rushed, O’Connor noted that there have been six public meetings on the project. The public record, he said, is “painfully thorough.”
Regarding traffic, O’Connor said traffic on the frontage road is far lower than its designed capacity. And Vail Mountain school is more than a half-mile away, he added. A traffic backup to the school would have to be more than 120 cars long to reach Booth Heights, he said.
O’Connor reminded council members that opponents’ concerns that Booth Heights isn’t the right site are misplaced.
“That’s not the question before the council tonight,” he said.
Vail Daily Business editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.
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