Save the East Vail sheep ©

The best way to “save the East Vail sheep” © is to mitigate and develop the East Vail workforce housing subdivision

Fast facts:

  • Bighorn sheep winter range is 1,800 acres.
  • Development will occur on 0.2% of sheep range.
  • Managing bighorn habitat to restore, enhance, or maintain vegetative openness is key to survival (and this plan provides for appropriate mitigation). The development proposes to permanently set aside and enhance 18 acres of private property for wildlife.
  • Neighbors have opposed bighorn sheep habitat enhancement efforts dating back 20+ years
  • The East Vail parcel is private property designated as a housing zone district and is the only undeveloped Housing parcel in the Town of Vail.
  • No variances to town code are proposed.
  • 2018 housing needs assessment shows need for 4,000 units.

The East Vail workforce housing parcel supports important wildlife habitat and is closely surrounded by habitats and wildlife uses that are unique in the Gore Creek Valley. Development and human habitation of this site without designing it around the wildlife community, without safeguards, and without habitat enhancement would result in impacts that would be unacceptable to the local community.

The East Vail Workforce Housing project has enlightened the Vail community about the bighorn sheep herd and has become a catalyst prompting the Town of Vail and resource agencies (the US Forest Service and Colorado Parks & Wildlife) to again consider broad scale habitat enhancement, the real key to maintaining this herd. Most of the habitat within the 1,800-acre sheep winter range polygon is in need of some type of enhancement to restore and reinvigorate the mountain shrub community that is normally maintained by periodic wildfires.

“Save the East Vail sheep” is a copyright of Vail Valley Partnership

O’Connor: East Vail development a positive for housing — and wildlife

Helpful links & information:

East Vail Bighorn Sheep Habitat Improvement Map: East Vail Bighorn Sheep Habitat progess

Wildlife Mitigation Plan for the East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision, Vail, Colorado. This stand-alone Wildlife Mitigation Plan will be provided to residents of the Workforce Housing subdivision to educate them about (1) the parcel’s setting, (2) the sensitivity of the local wildlife, (3) the effort that went into the development’s design to avoid, minimize, and compensate for project effects, and (4) requirements that residents must abide by to live in this sensitive setting.

East Vail Bighorn Winter Range: note, the workforce housing subdivision makes up only 0.2% of the bighorn sheep range

East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision Proposed Enhancments: note, the development will enhance 15.6 acres of bighorn sheep habitat

Bighorn Sheep Habitat Burn 1998 Full EA, East Vail residents strongly opposed this plan!


Partnership Letter to Governor Polis:

June 4, 2019

The Honorable Jared Polis
Governor of Colorado
200 E. Colfax Ave., Rm. 136
Denver, CO 80203

Dear Governor Polis,

Vail Valley Partnership is the regional chamber of commerce, with over 840 members throughout Eagle County who collectively represent over 80% of the local workforce. We are dedicated to the economic vitality of the valley, and as such our board of governors – which includes residents & business operators throughout Eagle County – has identified workforce housing as our number one priority.

We typically would not engage the State of Colorado, or your office, as housing is primarily a local issue and while the state has a role to play it is our belief that the primary issues related to workforce housing – zoning, density, etc. – are local issues.

However, it has come to our attention that a group of disgruntled residents are planning to ask you “to save the East Vail sheep.” We encourage your office to respect that this is inherently a local – not state – issue. We are aware that the developer has carried out significant community outreach, including to this group, as well as to Colorado Parks & Wildlife and other interested parties for their input.

If your office does take a position on this local issue, we encourage you to enthusiastically support the proposed housing development and proposed wildlife mitigation in a show of support for local innovation and local control.

For background purposes, the East Vail Workforce Housing Subdivision was rezoned by the Town Council in September 2017.  By this rezoning, just over five acres of the parcel were zoned to Housing District to facilitate the development of deed-restricted, workforce housing. The remaining eighteen acres were simultaneously rezoned to Natural Area Preservation District, the Town’s most restrictive zone district, to maintain this acreage as open space. The entire 23-acre parcel was previously zoned for single-family and duplex homes.

When the Town rezoned five acres to the Housing District, it guaranteed that 70% of the homes built on the site would be EHUs.  As an incentive, the Town’s Housing District also recognizes that up to 30% of a new development can be unrestricted Dwelling Units (not EHUs) in order to subsidize the cost of developing EHUs.  In the Housing District, projects are approved based on a project-specific Development Application which is reviewed by the Town’s PEC based on five descriptive criteria.

One of the largest concerns expressed during the rezoning process was the potential negative impact on wildlife, and specifically the local big horn sheep herd whose 1,880-acre winter range surrounds and includes this parcel.

The first step to mitigating the wildlife impacts of a development occurred when Vail Resorts rezoned eighteen acres for Natural Area Preservation, and concentrated the development potential of the parcel onto the five acres that was zoned for housing.

Additionally, over the course of last winter Vail Resorts commissioned a biologist to study the big horn herd and understand how the herd uses the site.  The results of this study found a relatively low use of this heavily forested parcel by the herd – but it does more frequently graze on the parcel and cliff-band above the Vail Mountain School and surrounding neighborhoods to our west.  One of the other valuable outcomes of the Vail Resort’s study was a series of design recommendations from the biologist that Triumph plans to incorporate into its development plan.

Critical to the development application is an environmental impact report (EIR) as well as a wildlife mitigation plan, prepared by Western Ecosystems, Inc.  The EIR and proposed wildlife enhancements are some of the most substantial ever proposed for development on private property in Vail.

“Wildlife protection and enhancements have been fundamental to our development plan from the beginning. In addition to laying out a plan that minimizes impacts to the surrounding open space, we are proposing to permanently set aside and enhance a substantial part of the property at a ratio of more than 3:1 when compared to the portion of the site that will be developed,” said Michael O’Connor with Triumph Development. “We believe this new neighborhood can be a model for environmentally-responsible development that helps address our valley’s critical housing shortage.”

The wildlife mitigation plan outlines a site layout that protects wildlife and proposes enhancements to the Natural Area Preservation parcel that can happen after project approval.  In addition, there will be rules and regulations for the development both during construction and while residents live in the neighborhood that will protect wildlife.

We believe that with vision, leadership, and political will, the needs of our local community will be addressed at the local level by our elected officials; we do not require state involvement and respectfully request that you not engage.


Chris Romer
President & CEO
Vail Valley Partnership

cc: Dan Gibbs, Representative Dylan Roberts, Senator Kerry Donovan