VAIL, Colo. (CBS4)– The Vail Town Council voted Tuesday evening 4-3 in favor of condemning a nearly 22-acre plot of land owned by Vail Resorts, starting a process to make the land unavailable to build on. That’s in direct opposition of what the resort was hoping to do: build a 165-bed workforce housing building.
The plot of land sits near I-70 on the eastern side of town. The Town of Vail had Colorado Parks and Wildlife come in to do a wildlife assessment of the area, as it’s a well-known spot for bighorn sheep to live.
Council Member Jonathan Staufer told CBS4 Mountain Newsroom Reporter Spencer Wilson Tuesday before the vote that the P&W crews believe that property to be incredibly important to the survival of the herd in the event of a bad winter, forcing the sheep to move closer to the road in order to graze.
Vail Resorts Senior Director of Skier Services Greg Willis said he knows the sheep are there, and they’re trying to make the property better for the sheep, even while building on the land as well.
“That 5-acre parcel of land along the roadway is not prime sheep habitat,” Willis said. “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.”
Willis explained they planned to pay for thinning of 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 still other locations Vail Resorts could build on that would not interfere with the sheep at all.
“This is in my opinion the wrong spot for it,” Staufer said. “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.”
Staufer said the Town of Vail is currently building a $30 million affordable housing development and asked Vail Resorts to partner with them on the project, but Vail Resorts “walked away from the table.”
He suggested Timber Ridge as one of the options for Vail Resorts to focus on instead.
Willis made it clear during the interview with CBS4 this parcel of land was the focus, and while other spots will be needed in the future for building out workforce housing, Vail Resorts was not going to stop pressuring this as the priority even if the land was condemned.
“There are other spots that we would absolutely love to speak with the town about,” Willis said. “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.”