The City of Vail Holds On condemnation of Booth Heights plot in East Vail and urges Vail Resorts to consider alternatives.
During an executive session at its Tuesday, June 7, Vail City Council meeting, the council drafted a response to a May 23 letter from Bill Rock, executive vice president of Vail Resorts and chief operating officer of the mountain division. Rock’s letter had questioned the feasibility and timeliness of a number of alternative housing options offered by the city in a May 13 letter from the city to the corporation. He also expressed a desire to see the sentencing decision overturned.
The city council’s latest letter, dated June 8, answers a number of Rock’s questions about each property and clarifies the city’s position on Booth Heights.
“It is important to reiterate that a majority of Vail City Council voted to continue condemnation of the Booth Heights parcel for public purposes, nothing has changed in this regard,” the letter reads.
He goes on to state that Vail Resorts received a letter from the city’s legal counsel reiterating their intention to convict him.
The letter also includes a May 3 letter from Devin Duval, Vail District Wildlife Manager of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, addressing some of the wildlife concerns on the East Vail parcel.
“Collectively, we must not wait for the herds to be in danger to push us to action. There is a growing need to work proactively to ensure wildlife has a chance to exist not just for us but for future generations,” Duval writes.
And while the city firmly stands by the sentencing decision, it is also using the letter to ask the company a “fundamental question”: “Does Vail Resorts want to enter into an agreement with the city of Vail that results in the transfer of the Booth Heights Parcel to the township of Vail in exchange for the township delivering one or more of the alternative housing actions proposed in the May 13 letter.
Although five alternatives were offered in this May 13 letter, the most recent response from the City of Vail emphasizes two primary alternatives to the Booth Heights development. This includes development on the West Middle Creek parcel and/or Vail Resorts’ interest in the residences at Main Vail, with work on this project already underway.
The city acknowledges many of Vail Resorts’ and Rock’s concerns about many of the unknown details of these alternative solutions — namely, housing demand, process, timing, and approvals — but says its own track record in achieving other housing projects “should provide confidence” that the city will carry out the projects.
“It won’t be easy, but what’s at stake is worth it,” the letter read.
As Rock had identified a number of concerns and questions about each of the proposed alternatives, the city also included a list of responses to those in the June 8 letter.
Residences in Main Vail
As part of the original proposal, the city offered the option for Vail Resorts to lease or purchase any or all of the 72 units under construction at Main Vail Residences. In its response, the company had questions about funding and timing, as well as whether or not its involvement would deprive other city employers and employees of housing.
The project, the city said, was “on track for completion in September 2023” and that current funding only allows 10% of the units to be rented. As to who the units are rented out to, that would be determined “upon completion of the project” and made available to “interested parties.”
In the May 23 letter, Vail Resorts had expressed concern about unit rentals, indicating a preference for labor unit ownership. In its June response, the city said it was interested in having “mutually beneficial discussions about an ownership structure.”
Middle Stream West
The initial letter from the City of Vail proposed a “land swap” of the Booth Heights parcel for land in West Middle Creek, which could provide up to 200 beds. Vail Resorts expressed concern about some of the unknowns in this proposal.
This included questions about timing – asking the city to rezone it for housing by September – as well as feasibility, including the question of how many beds would be allocated exclusively to Vail Resorts as well as whether it s was a “fair economic deal” with the number of strangers to the property.
The June 8 letter said the process of rezoning the property was already underway and expected to be completed by October. In response to Vail Resorts’ requests for an expedited schedule of duties, the letter identified a proposed timeline to do so by October with the city’s Planning and Environment Commission.
The letter also states that the city is currently undergoing a plot development analysis as well as a subdivision and land use plan analysis. She also attached, as requested, a Feasibility study 2018 of the construction site.
However, there is still work to be determined as identified in the letter. The city – in response to questions that it was a fair economic deal and required significant design and approvals – said: “Once the property is licensed, we would be able to do the comparison and determine the appropriate adjustments.
The other alternates
Vail’s initial letter had included three other alternative options: Lionshead’s masterplan redevelopment, including a potential partnership between the city and Vail Resorts on EverVail; the redevelopment of the Timber Ridge project; and redevelopment of the City of Vail Public Works site in East Vail.
While these three projects remain on the table, there seems to be more trepidation on both sides as to whether they are the right alternatives to the Booth Heights development.
Regarding the redevelopment of Lionshead, Vail Resorts had expressed both its concerns about the complexity of the Ever Vail project and its continued enthusiasm to pursue it. In its most recent response, the city has attached a draft Memorandum of Understanding for the project, which provides a framework for the potential future partnership on the property.
For the Timber Ridge project, the company said it was “encouraged by its potential but needed answers to determine what its possible involvement might be. In its response, the city answered questions about the details and scope of the project – noting that it will bring 300 to 450 beds and that it plans to stagger development based on the completion of residences in Main Vail. so as not to displace residents in the process.
While Vail Resorts said it welcomed the opportunity to help at the public works site, it also raised concerns that the property would face similar community concerns as the Booth Heights project. . The city gave no response or additional information on this project in its last letter.
With the Booth Heights condemnation underway, only time will tell if any of these alternatives are considered viable for the company to meet its workforce housing goals.
However, as the city concluded its letter, many details are yet to be discussed and, she added, “unless Vail Resorts commits to working on alternative solutions, nothing will change and the condemnation in will be the result”.