Vail Corp. sues town of Vail to overturn ordinance restricting workforce housing project

VAIL — Broomfield-based Vail Corp., the ski resort company with resort properties across the nation and also internationally, has filed suit against the town of Vail and the Vail Town Council to overturn an emergency ordinance that restricts what the ski corporation can do with a property it owns in Vail.

Vail Corp. has been working for years to build workforce housing on a 23.2-acre parcel of land. It was down to one additional approval in April of this year, the lawsuit said, which it received at the Aug. 2 council meeting. At the same meeting, however, the council also passed an emergency ordinance, known as Ordinance 16, that prohibits issuance of permits for any purpose on the land for a period of time that, because of the mountain winter season, limits construction activity until next summer.

The stated reason for the ordinance, according to the lawsuit, was to permit the town time to complete an appraisal that it intended to use to either buy or condemn the property.

Vail Corp. contends that the town has had ample time to either offer to buy or to start condemnation proceedings but has failed to do so.

According to the lawsuit, the town’s attorney, Matt Mire, “stated that the ordinance was necessary … because the town’s condemnation case was not yet ready, despite the fact that the town council passed its resolution to condemn almost three months prior and instructed its town attorney to prepare that resolution almost four months ago.”

It quoted from the attorney’s presentation at the council meeting: “The council has now determined that the protection of habitat is of utmost importance. It definitely intends to acquire the land and pay compensation for the land. … Any work on the property pursuant to any permit before the town acquires possession of the property would, you know, first of all thwart the objective of the habitat preservation and, secondly, be a waste of resources…”

Vail Corp. objected to the emergency ordinance because the town was well aware of the proposed workforce housing project for months and even years. “A town cannot circumvent its own code by creating its own emergency,” the lawsuit opines.

The lawsuit also contends that Vail has permitted other projects “squarely in the middle” of bighorn sheep range but has raised environmental impacts as a reason for preventing Vail to build its project “on the very edge of that same range.”

The lawsuit asks the court to overturn the emergency ordinance and require the town to issue permits as needed for the project.

A call to the city manager’s office about the lawsuit and dispute with Vail Corp. was not returned.

Vail Corp. is an entity registered to the address of Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN), which has struggled with staffing at its ski areas in recent years.

As a result, the company has vowed to invest millions of dollars to improve housing affordability near its resorts, which are often in locales with extremely high costs of living.  

The case is Vail Corp. v. Vail Town Council and the town of Vail, filed as 2022cv30163 in Eagle County District Court. 

Source: BizWest

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