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VR moves on land swap

Cliff Thompson

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Land swap



U.S Forest Service gives:

– 480 acres in west Avon between Avon and Singletree; 24 acres abutting the Eagle-Vail Golf Course; 6 acres adjoining the Sonnenalp Golf Course driving range in Edwards; five acres at Beard Creek north of Edwards; eight acres near Norrie, 30 miles east of Basalt in Pitkin County; and a small parcel near Mountain Star north of Avon to be used for a water storage tank.



Land being acquired by the Forest Service:

– 509 acres of Vassar Meadows south of Eagle and up to 130 acres in Eagle-Vail near Battle Mountain High School.



Land being conserved

– The Eagle Valley Land Trust is placing a conservation easement, preventing development, on 440 of the 480 acres in west Avon.

Who pays for what:

– Vail Resorts, $3.4 million; Forest Service, $556,520; Avon, $300,000; and the Eagle Valley Land Trust, $150,000.

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Under legal pressure from the U.S. Forest Service Vail Resorts Monday filed a zoning application for 40 acres of land between Singletree and Avon.

That filing requests 300 units of affordable housing on the site and doesn’t specify if the housing would be for sale or for seasonal use. It’s housing the resort company really doesn’t need because it has a surplus.

The ski company has stalled a land swap for nearly 28 months, leaving participants fuming because it tied up money, time and resources that could be used elsewhere.

“It’s taken longer than any land exchange I’ve seen in the last 25 years,” said Barry Sheakley, a lands specialist with the Forest Service.

Nearly 30 months ago, the ski resort company spent $3.4 million for the land which was part of a multi-parcel swap that would protect the privately-owned and pristine 509 acre Vassar Meadows parcel south of Eagle by giving it to the Forest Service. In exchange, the ski company would get 480 acres of Forest Service land between Avon and Singletree, which includes the 40 acres the ski company wanted. The rest would be protected from development by a conservation easement held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust, a preservation group.

The filing by the ski company forestalls legal action from the Forest Service , which issued an ultimatum 45 days ago requesting that Vail Resorts live up to the terms of the agreement it signed. In the mean time, the company is exploring a way to make the swap work without building the housing.

The town of Avon will spend the next 45 days reviewing the application before sending it to its planning and zoning commission which will recommend a course of action to the Town Council, said Ruth Borne, Avon’s community development director.

It has been broadly hinted by the ski company that it is willing to sell its land to make the Vassar Meadows swap work. Last month Vail Resorts revealed that the West Avon land could be acquired from the company and also hinted it was interested in having the county open space tax fund used to purchase and conserve it.

The West Avon/Vassar Meadows swap is part of a larger card game between the Forest Service and the ski company. The Forest Service has made it clear that the ski company needs to make the Vassar Meadows swap happen before it can do another, smaller swap, on which hinges a $75 million redevelopment project slopeside at the head of Bridge Street in Vail.

That project requires up to three acres of Forest Service land adjacent to the Vista Bahn lift in return for 136 acres in South Game Creek on Vail Mountain and 160 acres south of Arrowhead.

Land swaps work like a cafeteria sandwich swap. But unlike trading a peanut butter and jelly for ham and cheese, land swaps tend to be very complex, with multiple pieces of public and private land exchanged.

Land exchanges involving federal lands may only be made for parcels of equal value. In this instance, some cash and additional parcels were thrown into the mix to equalize the value of the exchanged parcels.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.


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