Citizens Call for Judicial Review of Vail’s Booth Heights Development
For Immediate Release
For further information, please contact Jonathan Staufer gorevalleycitizens(AT)gmail.com
Vail, Colorado November 12 Saying they’d been left no other avenue, a group of citizens today filed documents with the Eagle County District Court calling for a judicial review of the Town of Vail’s record of decision for the Booth Heights development.
“The bighorn sheep have been in the area for two weeks,” said Jonathan Staufer of the Gore Valley Citizens Alliance. “Despite that, Vail Resorts and Triumph rolled heavy equipment into the area on Monday. They have no interest in protecting the wildlife. Meanwhile, the Town is allowing them to run roughshod over regulations designed to protect wildlife and the environment.”
The proposed Booth Heights development has generated a massive outpouring of public opposition. A record number of 22 appeals to the Town Council were filed after Vail's Planning and Environmental Commission (PEC) approved the project. The opposition culminated with the election to the Town Council of four candidates who opposed the project on November 5. Despite that election, the new Council may not have an opportunity to further review the project.
“We’re not interested in an adversarial relationship with the Town,” Staufer said. “We're hoping the Town will take this opportunity to find another site for housing that will preserve this property for the bighorn sheep.”
The property in question comprises critical winter range for a native herd of bighorn sheep. Four respected wildlife biologists testified against the project over the summer, urging the Town to deny approval and encourage the applicants to build elsewhere.
“An overarching goal in the Vail Town Code is to protect wildlife and the environment,” said Maya Kane, a bighorn sheep expert and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “This project will result in irreversible direct and indirect impacts to the Gore-Eagles Nest bighorn sheep herd. Our goal is to ensure that the herd is adequately protected.”
The property was widely believed to be open space or in the Public realm for several decades. Indeed, the property disappeared from the tax rolls somewhere around 1974 during the acquisition of right of way for Interstate 70 and the Town of Vail’s acquisition of Katsos Ranch. In 2017, it was suddenly announced that the property belonged to Vail Resorts and that the company intended to develop it.
“The Town Code charges the Town Council and the Planning and Environmental Commission with ensuring that the environmental harms associated with large scale development are mitigated appropriately,” said land use attorney Kim Perdue, who is working with the citizens group. “The Town Council, acting through the PEC, is allowing high density development in bighorn sheep winter range without securing meaningful, enforceable, and scientifically sound protections for that sensitive population. The Town Council has also declined to take meaningful action to provide safe pedestrian access to services for the development’s residents, to protect wetlands on the site, and to protect against rockfalls and debris flows.”
“Booth Heights is about money. Period,” Staufer said. “30% of the property will be ‘free market.’ Next year, Vail Resorts will be back at the Town for approvals for EverVail and argue that they’ve satisfied their housing requirement, freeing up that development to reap maximum profits."
Record 22 Citizen Appeals Filed in Protest of Controversial Vail Resorts Development
For Immediate Release
For further information, please contact: Jonathan Staufer, gorevalleycitizens(AT)gmail.com
Vail, Colorado September 23 A record 22 citizen appeals have been filed with the Vail Town Council protesting the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission’s (PEC) approval of the Booth Heights development at the entrance to Vail. The appeals fall on the heals of the Town Council’s refusal to review the Vail Resorts/Triumph Development joint venture.
At issue is critical winter habitat for the Colorado’s State Animal, the Bighorn Sheep. No less than 4 wildlife biologists as well as Colorado Parks and Wildlife have stated that the project will likely cause the local extinction of Bighorn Sheep in the Gore Valley.
The herd, after which the Bighorn Neighborhood of East Vail is named, is down to slightly over 50 individuals, and is severely stressed and in critical condition.
“I’ve never seen a project of this magnitude or environmental impact that was this controversial not called up for Council review,” said Jonathan Staufer, a lifetime Vail resident who helped form the Gore Valley Citizens Alliance. “It has galvanized the community and has led to unprecedented activism.”
Hundreds of people have turned out to oppose the project at every Public meeting on the subject. Nearly 300 signed a letter calling on PEC member John Lockman to recuse himself due to the fact that he is a Vail Resorts employee. He refused to do so. Over 400 signatories called upon the Town Council to call up the matter for review. It also refused to do so.
Many feel the entire process has been tainted.
For over 40 years, the property in question was off the tax rolls. During an Open Lands Plan review in 2017, it was suddenly announced that Vail Resorts owned the property, despite the fact that they hadn’t paid property taxes on it in decades.
Vail Resorts applied for a minor subdivision, dividing the property into a Resource Natural Area on the portion of the property that, by all estimates, is unbuildable, and a nearly 6 acre area that was rezoned as Housing. The Housing designation allows 30% of the gross square footage construction to be sold on the open market. Some estimate that this will bring a return of over $20 million for the developers. Letters to the Vail Daily have said that the subdivision was rushed with little chance for Public response. The Town Council promised a full review when a development plan was submitted. Two things have controverted that promise: One is that Town of Vail codes call for a major subdivision review rather than minor subdivision review when a new road is added - there is no way any proposal could have been built on the sight without the construction of a new road; the second is that the application of the Housing zone district meant that proponents could argue - and some members of the PEC believed - that failure to approve the project would constitute a “taking.”
Citizens hope that, having elevated their complaints to a quasi-judicial review, that the Vail Town Council - and Vail Resorts - will be forced to take their complaints seriously.
“Vail has other places it can build,” Staufer said. “The bighorn sheep don’t have anywhere else to go.”