Letter: Getting Booth Heights land swap back on track
We are concerned about the impasse between the town of Vail and Vail Resorts over Booth Heights. How this has happened is difficult to understand. The proposed land swap seemed to be a uniquely ideal solution for all parties. For the town, it fulfilled its responsibility as steward of the environment, while providing much needed affordable housing.
For Vail Resorts, it also fulfilled housing needs but at a much more desirable (and less destructive) location, with a very attractive bonus of valuable housing credits. Moreover, such a bold and innovative step would have placed Vail Resorts at the forefront of corporations prioritizing environmental protection as a key element of their business model. That would seem to be a perfect fit with Vail Resorts’ reputation as a first-class ski resort that also promises to protect the environment and wildlife habitat. Ultimately the favorable publicity that Vail Resorts could realize from such a decision could be very significant, even worth more than the combined value of both the land and housing credits. But for some inexplicable reason, the land swap got untracked.
We urge that the town take all possible steps to place this initiative back on track. In that connection, we offer two suggestions. First, we suggest that the town propose that the parties engage in non-binding mediation. Our experiences are that often, when parties are at an impasse, a skilled mediator can help find a way to reach an amiable agreement. If that is a feasible process, we encourage seeking out an experienced business mediator. If an experienced business mediator is not available here in the valley, it might require going to Denver or beyond to find the proper person but it could be well worth the effort. We stand ready to assist in that process.
Second, we suggest that the town be prepared to make an offer for the property. We realize that Vail Resorts has said that it is not willing to sell the property but, if negotiations begin again, the town should be ready to take advantage of any opportunities that might arise.
Finally, if nothing can be done to resurrect the land swap, then we urge that the town condemn the property. The town’s intention in proposing a land swap was to save the Booth Heights property from development. If there is no other way to accomplish that, the town should not hesitate to use what would be a final option.