Vail Town Council gives final approval to rezone East Vail parcel for housing, preservation
October 3, 2017
VAIL — The Vail Town Council on Tuesday, Oct. 3, gave final approval to a Vail Resorts proposal to rezone a piece of land just north of the Interstate 70 interchange at East Vail. Council voted 5-2 to approve, with Jen Mason and Kim Langmaid voting "no."
As approved, the rezoning splits the 23.3-acre parcel, with 5.3 acres in the town's Housing district and the remaining 17.9 acres in the town's Natural Area Preservation zoning. Both are among the town's most restrictive.
As was the case with the council's Sept. 19 meeting, the proposal filled the council's meeting room at Vail Town Hall, with both supporters and opponents talking about the proposal.
Most opponents favored either denying the proposal or delaying it to a future meeting.
Resident Jack Stephan urged delay, saying a Tuesday vote "eliminates the incentive for meaningful negotiations" with Vail Resorts. "There are other alternatives from what Vail Resorts is presenting to you."
While no development proposal has been submitted — that's the next step after rezoning — Stephan and other opponents largely focused on the future of a bighorn sheep herd of roughly 40 animals that uses the property for winter range.
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Vail Resorts' wildlife consultants have reported it's likely that mitigation can preserve part of the property dedicated to housing.
Bill Heicher, a retired wildlife officer, said he doesn't believe the council had received any good wildlife information, adding his professional opinion is that development on the site would be a threat to the survival of that herd.
Langmaid said she believes any development on the site would cause the extinction of the herd.
Supporters of the proposal cited the area's need for workforce housing.
Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer told the council that the group's board of directors unanimously supports the Vail Resorts plan.
Rezoning "severely limits the land owner," Romer said, adding that wildlife and other issues will be addressed if a development proposal is submitted.
Former Vail Mayor Andy Daly urged approval of the rezoning proposal, saying wildlife issues could be addressed during the extensive review that will come with any development proposal.
And council members supporting the proposal noted that the issue before the council was whether the proposal meets the town's criteria for rezoning property.
Council member Jenn Bruno noted that the land is private property, and was already zoned for residential development.
"We're getting 70 percent (as preservation)," Bruno said, adding that Vail Resorts is essentially reducing the value of the property. That said, "we're not guaranteeing that anything can be built."
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.