Letter: Booth Heights isn’t only option for employee housing
We are writing as concerned residents regarding the Booth Heights development application process. We believe that to date neither Triumph nor Vail Resorts have provided sufficient evidence to both the Planning and Environmental Commission and the public to reach a defensible conclusion. Many serious questions remain, and PEC needs your public comment. Here are our concerns:
Safety and traffic: First, the Development’s traffic report was completed during a December Vail Mountain School recess and ski pass blackout period and falsely reflects the North Frontage Road impact. Second, this Frontage Road stretch, without further sidewalks and lighting mitigation, is not walkable at night, especially after the last East Vail bus. Third, there will be increased foot and bike traffic under the East Vail I-70 underpass to East Vail convenience stores. No report addresses the adverse impact on safety with heavy usage. With no available underpass lane mitigation, accidents could be deadly.
Wildlife impact: The East Vail bighorn sheep herd is iconic. Vail boasts “This is Bighorn Country!” with signs around town. The herd grazes along the frontage road during high snowfall and uses the land near the proposed development for annual migration. Experts state that the sheep do not “pioneer” well and housing has the greatest impact. Triumph’s proposed mitigation does not help the sheep. In addition, dogs are inconsistent with sheep. If the herd is to survive unstressed, how can a no-dog policy be enforced? Finally, losing the herd is irreversible, especially for future generations. Vail seems to be trading off housing for wildlife, contrary to the PEC mission.
Visual impact: When traveling west over Vail Pass, the downhill entrance into the Vail Valley is beautiful. Unfortunately, the proposed development application does not include preservation and material enhancement to the site. The proposed building will be an eyesore.
Architectural rendering and environmental sustainability: A rendering of neither the building nor uphill large rockfall berm were originally provided. After public request, the housing project was provided. It is four stories and stretches along the frontage road. Its footprint and massive facade are imposing. The housing is too big for the site and incompatible with East Vail. Will the large rockfall berm be successfully integrated into the surrounding hillside, unlike Booth Falls rock berm which remains a scar.
Enforcement realities for housing/parking: Permitting secondary rentals, like the Sandstone complex, make this project not employee housing but investment housing. Development parking allotments are based on employee housing calculations. Rentals will require additional parking spaces not included in the development. Parking is woefully inadequate.
In summary, Booth Heights, by not providing real-world, thoughtful environmental and safety studies has violated the community’s trust. Gratefully, the PEC has addressed these insufficiencies and required further third-party study before real mitigation solutions and meaningful discussion can occur. In our valley, Booth Heights is not the only option for employee housing — let’s get it right and reinforce PEC’s role to protect our town and its environment.