Letter: Housing doesn’t belong on East Vail parcel
As we learn more about the aspects of the proposed Booth Heights project in East Vail, the concept begins to seem less than ideal, or even good. In fact, it seems not very viable. The visual, environmental, infrastructure and safety issues seem huge. Previous letter writers have addressed all of those issues.
In the 1960s, Vail Associates deemed the land to be unbuildable. It remains true today. The geologic hazards, the fragility of the herd of bighorn sheep and other wildlife who use this steep hillside, the bulldozing of acres of prime open space at the eastern entry to Vail, the unsuitability of the project to the surrounding neighborhoods … I could go on.
A solution was foreshadowed by a previous Vail Town Council. The Real Estate Transfer Tax fund, as originally formatted, should purchase this land and declare it open space from this point forward. The RETT was initiated as a way for Vail citizens (old and new) to purchase open space within the town of Vail. For over a decade the town has used the RETT funds ($70+ million) to augment the town’s budget. I suggest that now is a time to use the fund, as intended, to save precious open space.
Open space is at a premium these days as developers gobble up more lands for huge buildings, higher densities, and profit. That’s how they make their money. But it is our job, as citizens, to say when it really doesn’t seem viable and is not appropriate. Citizens must get to work in order to protect what is deemed a priority for our town. (See the town of Vail mission statement.) Likewise, it is true that our development departments and personnel need to step back and ask if this is really a good proposal. These irreversible projects should not be “done deals” just for the sake of being the “development department” or an appendage thereof.
Constructing huge employee housing buildings is no longer very feasible in Vail. Employers should be looking at smaller buildings on appropriate in-fill parcels and band together in cooperatives to build employee housing. Vail Resorts owns a fair amount of land around Vail Village and Lionshead. Now might be the time to evaluate if parking maintenance equipment on that land is still one of the highest and best uses in light of their continued urgency to build employee housing on bigger open space parcels. The same can be said for the town of Vail relative to in-fill projects including the redevelopment of Timberidge West with higher density and rezoning of Middle Creek parcel.
Zoning this property for housing is inappropriate. Once this East Vail parcel is scraped clean … there is no going back. Now is the time to decide if our environment is really an integral part of who we are and where we live.