Vail Town Council may vote on its Open Lands Plan update in mid-October | VailDaily.com

Vail Town Council may vote on its Open Lands Plan update in mid-October

VAIL — After a summer of hearings and public input, the Vail Town Council may be ready by October to vote on its updated Open Lands Plan.

The update to the plan — which was originally approved in 1994 — was initiated to 2016, when town officials talked about an extension of the Vail Trail, a soft-surface path that runs from Golden Peak to the Vail Golf Club & Nordic Center. Public opposition to that idea prompted town officials to take another look at the lands plan.

That process has occupied a lot of time this year at both the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission and Vail Town Council.

After the planning board approved the draft plan in April, council members started their review in June.

At the council's afternoon meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4, council members went over some of the last big issues with land planner Tom Braun, who has worked on the plan for the town.

In the early going of the roughly two-hour meeting, council members agreed to drop a small pond from the plan. That pond in East Vail, just less than two acres in size, is owned by the surrounding neighbors, who had urged its removal from any mention in the plan.

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Council members agreed with the property owners that the status quo of the pond is fine and unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Two representatives of the property owners left as soon as that decision was made.

Other residents waited as council members and Braun talked about what changes should be made to the plan before it's submitted for a vote.

The importance of trails

Given that a trail proposal prompted the update of the 1994 plan, it's no surprise that trails were a significant part of Tuesday's discussion.

While the Vail Trail extension was dropped from the plan at the council's meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 7, another 11 trails or trail segments are identified for future study. That doesn't mean those trails — some of which are unauthorized and don't appear on any maps — will be improved. Some may be closed.

"They're ideas to be studied," Braun said, adding that study will take place when the council authorizes a full-blown trails plan.

Part of that study will include how trails affect wildlife populations in the forests surrounding the town.

In the wake of a January forum that detailed steep declines in local animal populations, wildlife has been a big part of public comment for the lands plan.

Addressing the council Tuesday, longtime resident Tom Vucich urged the council to include a summary of that January meeting, something council members said they'd do.

On the other hand, council members rejected a suggestion that the plan include language about eliminating adverse affects on wildlife.

That can come during later discussions, and after more study, Braun said.

Possible housing parcels

"Open lands" are different from "open space," and this draft of the plan — like its predecessor — also looks at property that might be suitable for development.

While there's little vacant land left in town that's suitable for building, a handful of parcels in the plan are being eyed for possible workforce housing development.

Council members agreed to leave the old Roost Lodge — a still-vacant parcel currently approved for a Marriott Residence Inn and nearly 100 deed-restricted apartments — for its underlying zoning as hotel space. But town officials are eyeing three privately owned lots behind the Vail Das Schone shopping center, as well as a small parcel near the Hotel Talisa and one in East Vail owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

While the site of the old Hotel Talisa tennis courts isn't very big — perhaps about 3/4 acre of buildable land — council member Greg Moffet said that property could be used for a couple of deed-restricted duplexes.

The East Vail parcel is a bit smaller, but could also be used for a small project.

Longtime resident Diana Donovan cautioned the council to stop looking at land for possible development.

"We'll never get those open spaces back," Donovan said. "We need to stop trying to get bigger and do better with what we've got."

While the council may vote to approve the plan's update as soon as Tuesday, Oct. 16, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said the new plan won't take more than 20 years for updates like the last one did.

The draft plan calls for reviews every few years, Chapin said.

"If there's something radically wrong, we can act," he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

Four facts

What: Vail Open Lands Plan update.

What it does: The plan creates an inventory of open lands left in town and details ideas about how to preserve or develop that property.

How old is it? The original plan was approved in 1994.

What’s next? After a summer of hearings, the plan may receive a vote on Tuesday, Oct. 16.