Vail Resorts to appear in court next week over town of Vail’s attempt to block workforce housing project

Vail and Vail Resorts appear unable to reach settlement through court-ordered mediation

Ali Longwell
Vail Daily
The Booth Heights habitat and site in East Vail is pictured on Sept. 21, 2022.
Christopher Dillman/Vail Daily Archive

The town of Vail and Vail Resorts are poised to present their cases next week in an immediate possession hearing in Eagle County District Court over the Booth Heights parcel in East Vail.

The two parties began court-ordered mediation late last year in an attempt to reach a potential settlement. However, the hearing dates on May 8 to May 10 were set in case the two parties could not reach an agreement by those dates.

Town Manager Russ Forrest confirmed that the “court hearing to determine whether the town of Vail ​can continue with the Booth Heights condemnation process is scheduled to occur next week.”

Condemnation is when a government seizes private property and compensates the owner for the property. The town says the area ought to be protected to help bighorn sheep who live in the area where the workforce housing project is planned.

“From the town’s perspective, this legal process does not prevent the opportunity to find a mutually agreeable solution to resolve this issue,” Forrest said.

The two parties are prohibited to discuss the details of ongoing negotiations regarding the condemnation case due to an order issued by District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman in January 2023.

In a statement from Vail Resorts, a spokesperson referenced this court order and added that “Vail Resorts continues to support incremental affordable housing, especially in our Vail community where we are experiencing a housing crisis.”

A joint trial management order issued on April 24 by Dunkelman states that “the town bears the burden on all the prerequisites of condemnation, and so it will present its case in chief first, after which Vail Resorts will present its case in chief and rebuttal case, and then the Town will present its rebuttal case, if any.”

Vail’s attempted condemnation of the contested East Vail parcel started in May 2022, citing concerns over the critical role the site plays as a winter habitat for the area’s herd of bighorn sheep.

Following the Town Council’s vote in May, the parties attempted to negotiate out of court. During this time, while the town urged the corporation to consider alternative land and housing projects, Vail Resorts remained firm in its plans to build on the East Vail site. However, after Vail Resorts rejected the town’s $12 million offer to buy the land, the town filed both a motion for immediate possession as well as a petition in condemnation on Oct. 14.

“Pending the outcome, a valuation hearing is scheduled in September to determine the compensation owed for the Booth Heights parcel,” Forrest said. This valuation hearing would occur should the court side with the town in the condemnation proceedings.

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