A victory for NIMBY: A Colorado judge sided with the town of Vail in its long-running legal battle with Vail Resorts, allowing the town to take possession of the site.

Eagle County District Court Chief Judge Paul Dunkelman ruled that the town has the right to condemn the 23-acre site that Vail Resorts plans to develop as workplace housing, vail daily report.

But the town has raised concerns about the land’s importance as winter habitat for the local herd of bighorn sheep.

Last May, the town voted to condemn the site, citing the need to protect wildlife. Unable to reach an agreement or purchase the property, the town filed a motion for immediate possession in October.

Dunkelman’s order granted the town’s motion, acknowledging its right to condemn the site and the need to acquire the property for public use.

Vail Resorts, while respecting the court ruling, said it was “disappointed with this outcome that the Town of Vail chose to take this action after years of working with our company to condemn our private lands and cancel the approved affordable housing project “to obtain approval for the project,” according to the outlet.

During a three-day immediate possession hearing in May, the town sought to justify its right to condemn the land, emphasizing the importance of protecting habitat for bighorn sheep. Vail Resorts argued that the town acted in bad faith and had ulterior motives in acquiring the land.

The 27-page court order recognizes the town’s legal authority to condemn the land and unsuccessful negotiations between the two parties over compensation. The judge also acknowledged the town’s intent to acquire the land for wildlife conservation and that there was no ulterior motive behind the effort — namely, to impede development.

Vail Resorts expressed concern about the town’s negotiating tactics for the $12 million purchase of the property, noting a previous agreement involving Triumph Developments as evidence of bad faith. However, the court concluded that the town’s decision to prioritize wildlife habitat over workforce housing was a policy choice within its purview.

“The town should not have attempted to coerce Vail Resorts as part of the process of acquiring the subject property. The force of condemnation is great, and so is the responsibility,” the judge wrote, according to media reports. “However, this action does not lead to a finding of pretext. Instead, it actually supports the town’s urgency to acquire the subject property and protect the cattle herd. “

The country is dealing with a housing crunch, but there simply isn’t enough of it. While most states acknowledge the need for more housing, the effort has faced strong opposition from localities that are reluctant to do more development for fear it could drag down the value of existing properties.

— Ted Glazer

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