Hintz: The sham of it all
I attended the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission meeting on July 8 with my 19-year-old son with regard to the proposed development of the East Vail parcel and its impact on the iconic herd of bighorn sheep. These were my conclusions:
Sham No. 1
Vail Resorts clearly cherry-picks when it chooses to be environmentally friendly and not just recycling friendly. The company could do the right thing and build employee housing elsewhere — in Vail or anywhere else in the valley where it would really boost that local town.
Instead, Vail Resorts is choosing to sell this land to a developer and potentially eradicate this iconic Vail herd — the only one in the valley.
Sham No. 2
The town of Vail seems to be equally ambivalent to its “environmental stewardship” value. When it was found that the water quality in Gore Creek had deteriorated, the town threatened and actioned legal suits against homeowners whose homes bordered the creek. It commissioned a huge report which was hundreds of pages long and had hundreds of actionable recommendations.
With regard to the sheep — town officials asked two wildlife experts on June 28 to provide a report about the impact this proposed development would have on the herd and to have it written by Friday, July 5 — a holiday weekend. Tsk, tsk. Shameful.
Sham No. 3
The Planning and Environmental — see which word comes first —Commission allowed the developer to present and talk for over four and a half hours. This was meant to be a meeting where public comment for the first time was allowed and yet it was clear that the tactic was to bore the pants off everyone so that there would be no comment. People left not out of disinterest but because they had a life — unlike the prospects of the sheep.
When, finally, questions were allowed, we only had three minutes each to present our cases. Ludwig Kurz manned the three-minute timer like a pro. One lady who has been in Vail for over five decades waited with her young granddaughter for hours to plead the case that this herd needs to be preserved for the younger generations. She was allowed 30 more seconds. Is there a pattern here?
Sham No. 4
The only wildlife “expert” who was allowed to present was the one hired by the developer. According to independent sources, he did not take into account the 40% decline in the herd in the last 12 years nor the fact that the habitat had already been impacted by building in the Booth Falls area. He kept trying to say that the herd might be much bigger but he also said that according to research all the sheep came from Summit as well to winter in this precise area.
My takeaway: Really all the sheep that we have winter in that exact habitat — about 55, not 120. What next? Vail Resorts employs a PR team to claim that the buildings will stop the sheep from licking all the salt that they need from the frontage road because they don’t have enough to forage on — or that all the dogs (which of course everyone in Vail is allowed) in the project will be fully trained sheepdogs?
Sham No. 5
One of the reasons that there is a shortage of employee housing is due to the fact that people who used to rent to employees now get more money by renting through Airbnb and VRBO. The 12 townhomes will also be allowed to rent month by month through those sites. Are you confused?
Sham No. 6
If it were not so important, this would be a real belly laugh. The person who did the traffic impact study did it on December 30, 2017. Oops. She admitted that VMS might not be there on a Saturday — omitting to mention it was the Christmas holidays or that because we had no snow there was no one here either. Just a detail, folks.
Sham No. 7
The developer cares. The developer was not on a buzzer or a gavel — he got as much time as he wanted. In that time he did not say how great this would be for the community, nor did he promise that he would look after the sheep. Instead, he posited that a number of sheep had died in an accident in or near Glenwood several years ago and a hard winter might just do the same.
Hope No. 1
My son, Scott, and I implore you to like our new Facebook page — Rams and Lambs Ewenite — and save this herd from extinction. Get your friends from all over the state, the nation, and the world to join our campaign. I agree with employee housing — just not where our bighorn sheep are.
There are plenty of other places — we need to save this species and others, one community at a time, all over the world.
Kirsty Hintz is an East Vail resident.