Letter: Vail will be irrevocably altered if Booth Heights is built
A few days ago we were coming home on I-70 down Vail Pass. As we exited East Vail, the new entrance captured our attention. After many months of hard work, and many dollars, it is clear this new entrance creates a refreshing and pleasing aura as one arrives at Vail, one consistent with our vision of spending time in the mountains. Then our eyes fell on the untouched hillside to our right, green in the summer sun, the land proposed for the Booth Heights development. We tried to imagine it with three immense block-like buildings plus townhouses, 73 units in all, jammed in along the frontage road and we shuddered. There is no doubt that this proposed development would irrevocably change the experience of Vail for all of our guests and residents plus spell doom for the sheep. The irony of spending huge amounts of time, energy and money on creating a beautiful entrance to Vail and then destroying it by building an urban mass of development at its doorstep is hard to ignore.
On Saturday, July 27, the Denver Post’s front page blared, “Bighorn sheep vs affordable housing.” They are mistaken. This decision is not bighorn sheep versus affordable housing. This is about preserving land for the bighorn AND providing affordable housing. Vail can have both, but not on this site. Preserving this plot as open space is adhering to the original vision of Vail by establishing a heritage for future generations and providing habitat that the sheep have enjoyed since before there was a Vail. It may seem controversial now to decide to preserve it. The acquisition of Yellowstone and Alaska were controversial in their day but now are viewed as irreplaceable. If saved, this land too will be treasured now and in the future. Preservation as open space is the preferred choice of many as demonstrated by the petition presented by Jonathan Staufer at the last commission meeting. We hope our voices will be heard.
Booth Heights purports to be about affordable housing but what does Vail really gain? Nineteen deed-restricted units. That’s all. Hardly seems like a good buy on our part, especially when one considers the downsides. Vail has done an excellent job building housing for locals. Pitkin Creek, Middle Creek, TimberRidge, the houses at the West Vail circle and individual properties throughout the town represent hundreds of units. That is what Vail should be aiming for. Development west of Middle Creek or in West Vail at the site of the old Roost Lodge are large spaces convenient to town where many units could be built without the worries of rockfall and mitigation necessary at Booth Heights. The tops of both Vail and the Lionshead parking structures would be ideal places to build many more residences and could be done with a combination of market rate and affordable housing units. We do not need to kill the goose (our environment) that lays the golden egg (Vail’s desirability and prosperity) by approving Booth Heights which will be an eyesore and a detriment to our community forever.
In making our decision, we ask each member of the Planning and Environmental Commission to consider the legacy they would like their service on this commission to create for Vail. Vail will always have the pressures of development but we will not always have the chance to preserve open space. Just as we, the current residents of Vail, appreciate the Katsos Ranch purchase by the town years ago that created space for the beaver pond, the bike path, and the Vail Golf Course so future generations will appreciate seeing bighorn sheep on open hillsides as part of their experience of Vail.
Lynn and John Gottlieb