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The Vail Town Council on Tuesday, by a 4-3 margin, approved Resolution No. 9 — “Exercising the Town’s Eminent Domain Authority to Acquire Open Space” – and started the ball rolling on condemnation of a Vail Resorts’ property in East Vail.
The town had previously agreed to rezone the property and approved a workforce housing project there, defending those approvals in court, but has now reversed course due to stated concerns about impacts to bighorn sheep habitat in the area.
The Town of Vail Twitter Feed included the following samples of very divided opinions from Vail Town Council members on Resolution No. 9:
Pete Seibert says the Town Council “can’t listen to what we hear, we need to watch what’s being done.” He suggests there could be other alternatives to East Vail. He says it is not shovel ready. If there’s a sincere effort on other sites, he says the town is ready to go.
[Kevin] Foley supports condemnation. He says he can’t understand why Vail Resorts didn’t accept an olive branch to partner with housing on the Residences at Main Vail site.
[Jonathan] Staufer says if the project is built in East Vail, the sheep will starve to death. Staufer is noting the door is wide open for the town to partner with Vail Resorts on Timber Ridge and the Ever Vail site. He is in favor of condemnation.
[Jen] Mason says the town has done a lot for housing since she’s been on Town Council, including Chamonix Vail and Solar Vail. She says the town has tried to partner with Vail Resorts for the last two years. She says she’s hopeful to have Vail Resorts’ attention to collaborate. Mason says it was only when the town used the condemnation option that it finally got Vail Resorts’ attention. She supports condemnation.
[Travis] Goggin will vote against condemnation. He says it is too much of a risk with the unknown cost. He’s hopeful something can be worked out in the end without condemnation. “We have to be better than this.”
[Barry] Davis says condemnation is a last resort. He believes there are options to collaborate. He says frustration is not a reason to give up fighting for a solution. He’d like to exhaust all options first.
[Kim] Langmaid says she won’t give up on solutions. She supports more housing in the community. She’s not willing to risk the demise of the bighorn sheep herd. She says the resolution doesn’t preclude the Town Council finding solutions. It would require good faith negotiations with VR.
Vail Resorts Tuesday night issued the following statement attributed to Bill Rock, Executive Vice President, Vail Resorts:
“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. The Town then partnered with us to defend that approval in court in 2020. We greatly appreciated their partnership and collaboration through that entire process and the project is shovel-ready now. The Town Council’s decision today is a complete reversal of their actions of just two years ago. 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 today is unprecedented in Colorado. It is unprecedented for a municipality to use the power of eminent domain to block affordable housing.”
Vail Resorts also sent out the following statements from other stakeholders and members of the community:
Jen Bruno, former Town Council Member and small business owner: “We can save the Bighorn Sheep herd through mitigation above Katsos Ranch Road and still have housing on Booth Heights, which is next to a highway and that brand new giant million dollar duplex. We can have both, but not if you start the condemnation process tonight…” “Why didn’t anyone object to the multi-million dollar duplex built next to Booth Heights. No one has argued against the million dollar renovations happening daily on Katsos Ranch Road. No one objected to the Town of Vail’s multi-million dollar public works renovation in bighorn sheep winter habitat…”
Chris Romer, President and CEO, Vail Valley Partnership: “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.”
Kate Schifani, Vail Mountain Snowmaking Manager: “We are the people who bring this community to life, and just like everyone else, we deserve to live here.”
Robyn Smith, business owner and West Vail resident: “This is how systematic inequality is perpetuated. The consequence of this action (of condemnation) is clearly discriminatory.”
Tobin Stone, columnist and Affordable Housing Advocate: “Few recognize the severity of the housing shortage. The situation is out of control – home values in Eagle County have risen 40% in the last year alone. This is not sustainable. If home values continue to rise at their current pace, in less than a year and a half, housing in Eagle County will be more expensive than that of even San Francisco, and every homeowner and local politician that has fought every attempt to build affordable housing for our workers will be to blame…” “This isn’t an either/or situation, and it’s not enough to just build housing on one site. We need the East Vail development.”