Ferry: How did we ever get here?
I attended the recent Vail Town Council meeting for the discussion of the $12 million offer the town is submitting to Vail Resorts for the purchase of the Booth Heights property. During the agonizingly long fiasco surrounding this topic, I have experienced a plethora of emotions.
To start with, like many others, including our mayor, it was complete bewilderment that one day, out of the blue, Vail Resorts “discovered” that it owned this piece of real estate that, it seems, everyone had thought belonged to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
That was quickly followed by being stunned by the news that after unknowingly owning the land — for decades — the company was only legally required to pay two years of taxes to bring things up to date. Many of us wished that somehow our properties had been lost in the shuffle if that’s all it costs to become current. Oh well.
And then the discussions, bantering and stonewalling began. To begin with, imagine having to build a massive retaining wall before the field could even be leveled. And then imagine the size of the leveled field — two football fields long. All I could envision was a subdivision that belonged in Arvada, not a mountain community.
I don’t have the stomach to review the whole process, so I won’t. Suffice it to say it was long, painful, expensive, and non-productive because I haven’t even gotten to the bighorn sheep yet.
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Now let me be clear, I have a hard time working up a sweat over saving every plant and insect on the planet. I essentially believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution — the strong will survive and the rest, maybe not. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
These sheep, this particular herd, not only represent beautiful and stately creatures that were here long before us, they are also part of a heritage that has been dwindling across the state for years. And according to expert after expert after expert, you can’t just up and move them, regardless of what the developers would like us to believe.
So we came to an impasse. The community was loud and clear — save the sheep. It was also loud and clear — we need affordable housing. So good on the Town Council and the previous town manager — they came up with what every reasonable person thought was not just a good solution but a great solution. The town would trade Vail Resorts the land next to Middle Creek for Booth Heights. Land that is not only in a better location but large enough to hold the same number of beds. And right at the main Vail roundabout. Sounded like a no-brainer.
Well, it was. Unless you are the resort company, and who can ever figure out the thought process of Vail Resorts executives? And let’s not even go to the acres of Ever Vail that Vail Resorts could use, except Vail Resorts leaders apparently don’t want to waste that on employees.
So instead, there is a hostile environment that should have produced a home run. There is antagonism at the lack of respect and unwillingness to “negotiate in good faith,” according to Mayor Kim Langmaid. And there is an offer on the table that the town should never have had to make.
I started out saying I have had a wide range of emotions during this entire mess. But that Tuesday night, my overwhelming thought was how sad it is that we have come to this.
There was a time when we all made decisions based on what is best for our community. That did not mean that we all got our way — but we found a way to compromise so that we secured this place as something special, something to pass down for future generations to enjoy. Those days seem to have gone — maybe they went with the move to Broomfield. But it’s important that we continue to fight for the right things, even through the most difficult battles.
So it made me sad that a company that didn’t even know it owned this land 10 years ago — a company worth billions — couldn’t see fit to donate this land and avoid this nightmare. Shame on Vail Resorts.