Vail Resorts asks judge to issue ’emergency order’ that halted affordable housing development

The Vail Corp., parent company of Vail Resorts, asked a district court judge to overturn an emergency ordinance the city of Vail passed Aug. 2 to prevent the company from developing affordable housing for the labor on land it owns.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 30, alleges the city council acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” and “exceeded its jurisdiction” in passing Ordinance 16.

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The emergency order prevented Vail from issuing permits that would have allowed Vail Resorts to conduct soil testing or any construction activity, such as grading, on a 5-acre parcel on the east side of the mountain town . This is where the resort wants to build affordable or workforce housing.

It was intended to preserve the property while the city works to acquire the land through the condemnation process in an effort to prevent high density development of bighorn sheep habitat in the area, according to the order.

“This effectively closes Vail Resorts for the entire mountain building season until next summer,” according to the complaint.

In May, the city council passed a resolution to condemn the land, so it could purchase it and set it aside as a nature preserve to protect the herd of bighorn sheep that frequent the area.

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But, Vail Resorts claims, it never condemned the land and never made the company an offer of fair compensation in four months. Meanwhile, the city’s Design Review Board approved the company’s development application on May 18, and Vail Resorts wanted to move forward with soil testing.

“There is no urgency other than that of the City’s own decision of its delay in filing its sentencing case,” the complaint states. “But a city cannot circumvent its own code by creating its own emergency.”

City officials posted notice of Ordinance 16 on Friday afternoon before the Tuesday, Aug. 2, city council meeting at which it was approved, according to the complaint. Ironically, also at this meeting, the council upheld the design committee’s decision after a neighbor appealed.

“As of August 2, 2022, the Vail Resorts project was fully licensed and ready for construction,” the compliant states.

A spokeswoman for the city of Vail said the city attorney “is reviewing the complaint, so at this time we don’t have a statement.”

Vail Resorts spokesperson John Plack emailed the following statement: “Vail Resorts did not want to end up in court, and our goal remains unchanged: an urgent need for additional affordable housing in the city of Vail. However, the extraordinary and unusual action of the City of Vail and improper use of an emergency order resulted in our filing in court on August 30, 2022.”

Vail officials said the $17 million development would add 165 desperately needed labor housing units and was “ready to go.”

In 2017, the city council – with the unanimous recommendation of the city’s planning and environment commission – agreed to rezone the 23.3-acre plot to allow development on the 5-acre land of a East Vail workforce housing development. The area is known as Booth Heights.

The project was approved by the city council in 2019.

After concerns were raised in early 2022 about bighorn sheep being impacted by development, the company agreed to give the city 18 acres of the property to preserve forest land, and also paid the city $100,000 for “Enhancing Wildlife in the City.

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“Colorado’s mountain towns are in critical need of affordable workforce housing,” the complaint states. “And the city of Vail is no exception.”

The complaint asks a district court judge to overturn the order because:

“The city took this step: (1) without following its own code in passing ordinances that impact property rights; (2) without filing a conviction case to take the Property; (3) without proving in court that he is entitled to take the Eminent Domain Property; and (4) without having taken possession of it following such discovery and after having deposited the fair compensation estimated for its taking.

The complaint does not seek any other damage.

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