Mayor Kim Langmaid really hopes the town of Vail doesn’t have to go through with the possible condemnation of a parcel of land in East Vail owned by Vail Resorts that has been mired in years-long controversy. There are alternatives.
Langmaid and the rest of the Vail Town Council have sent a lengthy letter outlining those options to Vail Resorts. The company last month announced plans to build workforce housing on the Booth Heights site, a 5.4-acre parcel just north of the Interstate 70 East Vail interchange.
That site has been controversial since it was proposed for housing in 2017. Much of that controversy is due the property being part of winter range for a herd of bighorn sheep. Critics, as well as some wildlife experts, contend the parcel is essential to the herd’s survival. Project supporters claim the site can house both people and animals.
The town’s letter to the resort company stresses a desire to collaborate on “new housing solutions,” and lays out several options.
The first option is one already under construction: The Residences at Main Vail. That 72-unit project is expected to be finished by September 2023. The town letter offers Vail Resorts some form of participation, from master leasing to the outright sale of all or a portion of the project. The town is also proposing a trade of the East Vail parcel for the Residences at Main Vail parcel.
Steep, but no sheep
Another option is a parcel just west of Middle Creek, near the current Middle Creek Village apartments.
A 2018 study by architect Bill Pierce determined that site is potentially suitable for housing — as many as 175 units. But it’s a steep site.
But the East Vail parcel is also steep. And, Langmaid said, the West Middle Creek site doesn’t have any of the wildlife habitat or geological hazard issues found at the East Vail site.
Vail Town Council member Pete Seibert noted that the West Middle Creek site is also far more walkable for residents going to work or out for fun.
Timber Ridge is another potential site on the north side of the interstate. The town and Triumph Development are currently in the early stages of a redevelopment plan that could more than double the current inventory at Timber Ridge by about 100 units.
The town’s letter also notes that the Vail Public Works Department’s campus north of the Vail Golf Club could be used for roughly 120 units.
Before that happens, though, the current access under the interstate would have to be widened.
Ever Vail: It’s complicated
Perhaps the most complex proposal is the Ever Vail site just west of Lionshead. The letter notes that the current master plan for the site could be amended to include new deed-restricted housing, realignment of South Frontage Road, and add new hotel and short-term lodging beds, as well as adding retail space and improved mountain access.
Seibert noted that any of the options presented to the resort company are “much better uses of everybody’s time and energy. … I’d rather be spending money with architects and planners than with attorneys.”
Langmaid said the letter pulls together a number of concepts that town officials have been discussing for some time.
“We’re trying to offer up a variety of solutions here so we can find something that works” for both the town and Vail Resorts. “They want to see incremental new housing, and so do we.”
Seibert called the letter a “good first step” to restart talks with Vail Resorts.
“They asked for some options, and the letter is a pretty good statement of options,” he said.