The Vail Town Council voted last night 4-3 in favor of condemning a 22-acre plot of land owned by Vail Resorts, beginning a process to make the land unavailable to build on. CBS Denver reports the resort intended to build a 165-bed workforce housing building on the property.
The plot of land sits near I-70 on the eastern side of town. The Town of Vail had Colorado Parks and Wildlife do a wildlife assessment of the area, as it’s a well-known spot for bighorn sheep to live.
Council Member Jonathan Staufer says the assessment showed the property was important to the survival of the herd in the event of a bad winter and developing it would force the sheep closer to the road in order to graze.
Vail Resorts Senior Director of Skier Services Greg Willis acknowledges the sheep are there but believes the could make the property better for the sheep as well as building on the land.
“That 5-acre parcel of land along the roadway is not prime sheep habitat. That is not where we want our sheep, right? The sheep belong further up, and what we need to do is invest in that habitat so they can go back to where they belong.”
Vail Resorts planned to thin the underbrush further up to allow more space for the sheep and would turn over 75% of the land over to the town for habitat. Staufer argued there are other locations Vail Resorts could develop that would not interfere with the sheep. He suggested Timber Ridge as one of the options for Vail Resorts to focus on instead.
“This is in my opinion the wrong spot for it. The bus service is inadequate… the geological studies haven’t been done correctly, the hydrology studies, transportation, and parking studies… there are a lot of reasons that this spot does not work as well as several others.”
The Town of Vail is currently building a $30 million affordable housing development and have asked Vail Resorts to partner with them on the project, but Vail Resorts “walked away from the table.” Greg Willis stressed the urgency of the housing crisis and the immediate need for developing the site:
“There are other spots that we would absolutely love to speak with the town about. This spot is ready to go now. And we need beds now. Some of those other projects are still in talks, (but) they are not shovel ready yet, we are talking 3-5 years down the road, we can’t wait that long.”
Bill Rock, Executive Vice President of Vail Resorts had this to say on the decision:
We will be sure to stay on top of this story as it develops and update as new information becomes available.