Vail creates fund for donations to Booth Heights site acquisition, preservation
Residents urge electeds to stay the course after Vail Resorts rejects town's $12M offer
VAIL — One day after Vail Resorts rejected a $12 million offer for the East Vail parcel — also known as Booth Heights — the Vail Town Council created, via a resolution, a fund for the public to be able to contribute funds to assist with costs associated with the town’s acquisition, preservation and protection of the site.
Carlie Smith, the town’s finance director, said Tuesday that the fund was “set up in response to some community members, guests, visitors and wildlife conservationists who have wished to financially demonstrate their support to acquire the Booth Heights parcel.”
According to the resolution, the contributions to this fund will be able to be used for four main things.
The first is “any costs incurred by the town in attempting to acquire the Booth Heights Property and designating the Booth Heights Property as open space,” including court costs, expert witness fees, consultant fees and attorney fees.
Initially, it had also included public relations and marketing fees, but the council voted to strike this use from the resolution. This change came as a result of a public comment made by Vail resident and business owner Robyn Smith who said “it just doesn’t seem appropriate for a government to be directing funds to influence public opinion, particularly around an issue that several community members have requested a public vote on.”
Additionally, donations to this fund can be used to go toward “the total amount of compensation paid by the town to acquire the Booth Heights property, if acquired,” and “any costs incurred by the town” for future property maintenance as well as for scientific research and study of the property.
The fourth point was added by the council on Tuesday night to add an allowance for the funds to also be used for possible future preservation efforts, specifically adding the allowance for “scientific research and study” for the purpose of habitat preservation.
While the town’s offer for the parcel was not accepted by Vail Resorts, the council still passed, on second reading, a budget supplemental on Tuesday night to allocate $12 million of the town’s real estate transfer tax funds for the purpose of acquisition. The supplemental passed 5-2, with Mayor Pro Tem Travis Coggin and Council member Barry Davis dissenting.
In his rationale, Davis said that he didn’t agree with allocating the $12 million because the “final cost is still unknown and I believe a large number of our constituents don’t feel like their voice has been heard and they are ready to deploy that amount of money.”
The Town Council did hear from a number of community members at Tuesday’s meeting, expressing their support for the council’s current course of action on the Booth Heights habitat with Vail Resorts.
“I really applaud you with going forward with the condemnation, for setting up the funds and I just want to thank you for being our council and for having the fortitude to stand up to this evil corporation that is not a community player,” said Debbie King Ford.
Resident Richard Leslie spoke in support of the council but urged them to consider different actions moving forward.
“Of course, it’s a good idea to raise some money. What you really need to do, however, is change your tactic,” he said. “You’re not acting like the people you’re fighting; you’ve got to act like them if you want the results.”
However, others expressed support for the council continuing on its current path.
“Town Council, I urge you to stay strong and stay the course, and I urge the community to rally and stay the course and help protect this precious and irreplaceable piece of land,” said Pamela Stenmark.
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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