Vail’s Open Lands Plan gets green light from planning commission; Town Council consideration next
April 24, 2018
VAIL — In a unanimous vote, the town Planning and Environmental Commission has recommended the new Open Lands Plan for approval.
While oftentimes a planning commission recommendation will go to the Town Council right away for approval, the council is not expected to examine the Open Lands Plan recommendation for approval until June.
"That will allow a little more time for public comment," said Vail planner Chris Neubecker.
The new Open Lands Plan is an upgrade to the 1994 Open Lands Plan, which outlined 51 action items. Thirty-eight of those have now been completed, partially completed or implemented in other ways.
The stated purpose of the plan update is to "identify or redevelop strategies for acquiring or protecting key open lands in Vail that would be valuable for recreation, protecting sensitive environmental resources, extending or connecting trails, providing adequate neighborhood open space and creating a small amount of land for contingent, unforeseen uses such as public facilities or employee housing."
Neubecker said the town planning department, with help from the environmental department, public works and consultant Tom Braun, worked on the plan update for nearly two years.
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"I think it was a very thorough review of the plan," Neubecker said. "We're proud of the plan we have here, and I think it's going to help to continue the stewardship that Vail has created over the past 24 years with the original plan."
The plan looks at 24 specific parcels and is keen to make a distinction between open lands and open space. While open space is discussed in the Open Lands Plan, the plan also identifies areas that could be developed.
Open space is land with conservation value, which won't be developed, while open land is simply vacant land which could one day see development.
Open space, and the consideration of wildlife, is one of the major elements of the plan update.
In examining the two decades that have gone by since the original Open Lands Plan passed, there's been an uptick in development and a decline in wildlife populations, which is now a major consideration.
"Now that vacant land and open space are more in need, I think, because there's so much development around here, I think people recognize the scarcity of land a little bit more," Neubecker said. "They're a little more aware of it."
Members of the public have raised concerns about the part of the plan that calls for the extension of the Vail Trail in the area east of Vail Village near the Vail Golf Club.
"The new plan has some trail concepts and some trail ideas, but there's a bigger focus on wildlife," Neubecker said. "For example, it recommends wildlife studies before we add or extend any trails, whereas that wasn't really discussed very much in the old plan. There's some trails in the original plans that have been taken out of this plan."
Those interested in the plan are encouraged to subscribe to the town's open lands update information mailing list by visiting the town's website at vailgov.com. Vailgov.com is also where interested members of the public can find a copy of the plan itself and leave comments via the website's contact form.