Should Vail continue to acquire private lands and use conservation easements to preserve open spaces? A Town Council review is Tuesday | VailDaily.com

Should Vail continue to acquire private lands and use conservation easements to preserve open spaces? A Town Council review is Tuesday

Daily staff report
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VAIL — The Vail Town Council will review the status of the update to the 1994 Comprehensive Open Lands Plan at its regular evening meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15. The topic is listed as item 5.1 on the agenda for the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers and will include opportunities for public comment.

Planning consultant Tom Braun will lead the presentation, which will include an overview of the work to date. Initiated in December 2016, the Open Lands Plan Update project has included community workshops and research and evaluation of town-owned parcels, as well as privately held undeveloped parcels, plus outreach to technical expert groups.

As part of Tuesday's presentation, the project team will be asking Town Council to review and comment on three policy-related elements of the 1994 plan. Town Council input on these topics will assist the project team in drafting the update:

• The 1994 plan recommends the acquisition of privately owned lands to further goals for open-space preservation, protection of environmentally sensitive lands, trail development and other public uses. Should the plan update continue to advocate for the acquisition of privately owned lands?

• The 1994 plan served to define the town boundary with U.S. Forest Service lands and resulted in the Land Ownership Adjustment Agreement. Should the plan update advocate for Forest Service land exchanges and, if so, for what purposes?

• The 1994 plan recommends the use of open space designations or conservation easements to protect lands. Should the plan update advocate the use of conservation easements to further protect town-owned lands?

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The Town of Vail Comprehensive Open Lands Plan was adopted in 1994 and has provided the town with a framework of recommended actions that has established a comprehensive system of public benefits, including parks, recreation, protection of sensitive habitats, trails and land to be reserved for public uses, including public buildings and employee housing. More than 30 of the 52 parcels identified in the plan have either been acquired, are close to being acquired or have met the objective of the plan without acquisition.

In authorizing the plan's update, the Town Council directed staff to work with the community in determining which parts of the original plan have been completed, which parts are still relevant and to identify new needs based on current issues such as protection of Gore Creek water quality, recreational opportunities, including trails, as well as the potential for acquisition of sites for housing and other public uses.

The project team has begun drafting the updated plan. Upcoming steps in the planning process include:

• The town has engaged S.E. Group, a consulting firm with specialization in trails planning. In the coming weeks, S.E. group will be meeting with members of the community and will be hosting a trails-specific community workshop this fall.

Presentation of a draft plan to obtain recommendations from the Planning and Environmental Commission.

• Presentation of a final plan for consideration by the Town Council.

To view a staff memo on the Open Lands Plan Update, visit the online project page at http://www.vailgov.com/openlandsupdate, or to comment in advance of the meeting, email the Vail Town Council at towncouncil@vailgov.com. For additional questions, contact Kristen Bertuglia in the Community Development Department at 970-477-3455 or email kbertuglia@vailgov.com.