Vail Resorts on worker housing in East Vail: ‘Ultimately, it will be decided by the courts’
Company responds to town's most recent letter
Vail Resorts and the town of Vail have traded several letters in recent months regarding Vail Resorts’ efforts to build employee housing in East Vail.
On Thursday, Vail Resorts responded to a June 7 letter from the town of Vail, indicating that the company does not want to relinquish its rights to the property.
“We will not voluntarily give up our private land,” wrote Bill Rock.
Rock’s answer was provided in response to the town of Vail posing “one fundamental question” to the corporation in the town’s June 7 letter: “Does Vail Resorts want to pursue an agreement with the town of Vail that results in the transfer of the Booth Heights Parcel to the town of Vail in exchange for the town delivering on one or more of the alternate housing actions proposed in the letter of May 13?”
The Vail Town Council, in a 4-3 decision, voted to pursue condemnation on the property in an effort to save a herd of bighorn sheep that uses the area for its winter range.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has recommended finding an alternative site for development in an effort to save the Gore/Eagle’s Nest bighorn sheep herd, a native herd to the Gore Creek valley which needs “a highly specific set of biological conditions to exist and persist on the landscape,” according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The town of Vail presented several alternative sites for housing projects, all of which Rock said Vail Resorts would like to pursue.
Rock’s letter said East Vail aside, the town and Vail Resorts should work together on all of the opportunities detailed in the town’s list of alternatives, getting started as early as next week.
“Given that these potential developments may take years to bring to fruition, we would like to begin that work as soon as possible,” Rock said.
As for East Vail, however, Vail Resorts has a number of legal concerns, Rock said.
“We will raise those concerns in the appropriate forum, and ultimately, the decision of whether affordable housing will be built on our East Vail private land will be decided by the courts,” Rock said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the East Vail terrain is used by the sheep for its access to steep escape terrain, open sight lines, cliffs and specific south-facing slopes that provide forage in the winter.
Without access to terrain with those features, the sheep “simply won’t exist,” according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “The Gore/Eagle’s Nest sheep herd is already extremely limited in the amount of winter range that is available to it.”
Rock, in Vail Resorts’ Thursday response, said all projects have impacts that require planning and mitigation.
Devin Duval with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in a statement to the Vail Town Council in May, said Eagle County doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to mitigation.
“In looking at local elk herd populations as a case study for mitigation effectiveness, the efforts to minimize or negate impacts do not survive the test of time,” Duval said. “Mitigation measures, over time, are forgotten, go unenforced, or entities slowly gravitate away from the agreed-upon or desired conditions.”
Duval also said not all impacts on wildlife are created equal.
“High density and high-intensity human use will elicit a different level of disturbance than that of lower intensity, distributed human impacts,” he said.
Rock, in Vail Resorts’ Thursday response, said while the company appreciates the concern for the bighorn sheep habitat, “we cannot support this town council’s stance to only prevent affordable housing in the bighorn sheep habitat, while allowing new luxury home construction, commercial development and a multitude of other uses in that same bighorn sheep habitat.”
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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