The latest development in the ongoing saga of Vail town versus the Vail Corporation was that the town narrowly voted in favor of extending an offer of $12 million for the purchase of the contested 23.3 acre parcel of land in East Vail. The mayor Kim Langmaid stated that the offer was based on advice from several experts and deemed it “extremely generous.” A previous significantly lower offer by the town had been rejected by Vail Corp. in March 2021.
To recap events in Vail: Vail Corp. earmarked a 23.3-acre parcel of land in East Vail for the development of affordable staff accommodation in 2017 and gained development approval in 2019. However, the town of Vail subsequently changed its mind and tried to stop Vail Corp. from starting its building project, arguing that the parcel of land is vital for the survival of the native Bighorn sheep population. The town invoked an emergency ordinance, Ordinance 16, to stop all permits on the land in question. Vail Corp. in turn filed a complaint in Eagle County District Court for improper use of an emergency ordinance, in an effort to have Ordinance 16 overturned.
- Related: Vail Corp. Files Court Complaint Against Town of Vail, CO, as Battle Over Workforce Housing Project Drags On
At the heart of the debate is the question: Is this really about protecting Bighorn Sheep or is this about not wanting affordable housing in East Vail?
Those who believe the latter stress that the effect on the sheep’s grazing area is minimal. Of the 23.3 acres Vail Corp. owns, only 5 acres would be used, and the remainder turned into a conservation area. The 5 acres only make up 0.5% of the sheep’s total winter grazing area. Supporters of the affordable housing project further point out that there are existing luxury properties in East Vail on Bighorn Sheep grazing land that do not face the same scrutiny when applying for development approvals.
Those who believe it is about protecting the Bighorn Sheep stress that the entire herd depends on this south-facing spot to survive the winter. Any disturbance would have a detrimental effect on the sheep. Opponents of the building project also stress that the luxury properties in East Vail are built in a different zone and thus fall under different zoning and approval rules. They further highlight that the town offered several alternatives for Vail Corp., which the resort manager did not pursue.
We can only assume that, if this truly is the proverbial olive branch that the town of Vail makes it out to be, then Vail Corp. will jump at the opportunity to offload the land at the $12 million offered.
It is an interesting question whether the offer is as generous as the mayor claims. While there are no comparable properties on the market, looking at Realtor.com for properties in Eagle County, one can find an 18.95-acre parcel of land for sale in Minturn, which is offered at $11.5 million. While the land is located about equidistant from Vail’s ski lifts to the parcel of land in East Vail, real estate prices in Minturn are much lower compared to real estate prices in East Vail.
We would love some feedback from local experts on how they perceive Vail town’s offer, as Vail Corp. has not come out publicly with a statement. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. Do you think Vail Corp. will take the offer?