Town of Vail, CO, Granted Possession of Hotly Contested East Vail Land

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
The town of Vail has been given immediate possession of the parcel of land in question at East Vail. Picture: Vail Resorts

The ongoing Vail versus Vail saga appears to have come to an end, as the Eagle County District Court Chief Judge Paul Dunkelman issued his ruling in favor of the town of Vail last Friday, June 30, 2023. The order issued by Judge Dunkelman grants the town of Vail immediate authority to condemn the hotly contested site in East Vail. This gives the town the ability to forcibly acquire the site from Vail Resorts.

Affordable housing
Artist render of the proposed affordable housing project in East Vail, picture: Town of Vail

Vail Corporation had earmarked a 23.3-acre parcel of land in East Vail for the development of affordable staff accommodation in 2017 and gained development approval from the town of Vail in 2019. 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 was 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. In September 2022, the town extended an offer to purchase the land for $12 million, which Vail Corp. turned down.

East Vail
Bighorn Summer Habitat (green) versus Winter Habitat (red), picture: VailBighorn Instagram Page

While Dunkelman has awarded the town of Vail immediate possession of the parcel of land, he was not holding back criticism at both parties in his written statement, stating, “Instead of meeting their responsibilities and addressing workforce housing and protection of wildlife habitat in a responsible fashion, the Town and Vail Resorts have chosen to defer this decision to the Court. While this is their right, it is also a failure on the part of the Town and Vail Resorts.”

”The Court has interpreted the evidence and made factual findings that the survival of the bighorn sheep herd has been a focus of the town and that this was not a post-hoc justification. It may have increased in priority with the changing of the Town Council but was not created as justification for the condemnation. It existed before and after the Petition for Condemnation was filed.”
Paul Dunkelman, Eagle County District Court Chief Judge

Vail Resorts’ spokesperson John Plack said in a written statement, that the company respects the Court’s decision and appreciates the Court highlighting issues that made this a challenging process. He further stated that Vail Resorts is “disappointed in this outcome and that the Town of Vail chose to take this action, to condemn our private land, and eliminate an approved affordable workforce housing project after collaborating with our company for years to get this project approved.”

One can only hope that this ends this war of roses and that the town of Vail will find an agreeable solution for workforce housing.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are native to Colorado. Picture: Colorado Encyclopedia

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