East Vail Map

A map of east Vail shows two luxury-home developments near the bighorn sheep winter range, as well as the site of a proposed affordable/workforce housing development that Vail Resorts wants to build.

In what seems to be an effort to force Vail Resorts Inc. to the bargaining table, the Vail Town Council late Tuesday approved a resolution to move forward with condemning a 5-acre parcel in East Vail that was previously approved for an affordable housing development.

A video of the meeting shows a packed council chamber, and many of the attendees included blue-shirted Vail Resorts employees. The council approved the resolution, 4-3.

“The next step is to engage in good faith negotiations with Vail Corp.,” town spokeswoman Suzanne Silverthorn said. “The condemnation process involves multiple steps, so 'possible' remains an appropriate descriptor.”

Mayor Kim Langmaid declined comment Wednesday and plans to meet with the town attorney in the coming days, Silverthorn said.

Vail Resorts appeared primed for a possible legal showdown, but declined to say Wednesday if any legal action was planned.

The Town of Vail and Vail Resorts are on different sides of the fence over 5-acres of land. The ski area wants to use it for employee housing while the town wants to preserve it for wildlife.

“Our company is deeply saddened and disappointed to see the Town of Vail choose to condemn land for an approved affordable housing development. We relied in good faith on the Town’s 2019 approval of this housing after an exhaustive public review process,” Bill Rock, executive vice president, said in a statement.

“If you move forward, it is sure to cost the town millions of millions of dollars, money that could be used for things like affordable housing or wildlife mitigation,” Chris Romer, president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, told the council Tuesday.

Vail officials said the $17 million development would add 165 units of desperately needed workforce housing and is “shovel ready.”

In 2017, the Town Council — with the unanimous recommendation of the Town’s Planning and Environmental Commission — agreed to rezone the 23.3-acre parcel to allow for development on the 5-acre plot for an East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision. The area is known as Booth Heights.

The development was approved by the Town Council in 2019.

The town actually joined Vail Resorts in defending the decision before a judge. The case was settled in 2019, when District Judge Russell Granger ruled the Town Council “neither exceeded its jurisdiction, nor abused its discretion in its decision to approve” the development application.

Several council members and Langmaid said the issue is over a herd of bighorn sheep that uses that area as part of its winter range.

The plans feature a wildlife mitigation plan, including a $100,000 mitigation fund “to be used by the Town and the Town Council for the enhancement and protection of the bighorn sheep habitat,” according to the final court order.

Vail Resorts officials cite luxury homes being built in the same area, wondering why council members don’t appear to be concerned about sheep habitat when it comes to luxury home developments.

“The Town Council’s decision (Tuesday) is a complete reversal of their actions of just two years ago,” said Rock. “The Town of Vail has not attempted to block any of the new home construction, or condemn any of the more than 100 luxury homes, in the same sheep habitat. Instead, the Town of Vail has only singled out land approved for affordable housing for condemnation. The action of the Town Council (Tuesday) is unprecedented in Colorado. It is unprecedented for a municipality to use the power of eminent domain to block affordable housing.”

Council member Jen Mason acknowledged that the town is in a “terrible” housing crisis, according to a Vail Daily article, and said she hopes the town and Vail Resorts can use the “good-faith” negotiation period called for in the resolution to reach an agreement that won’t require the lengthy, and expensive, condemnation process.

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