Homeowners may sue over alpine slide
November 22, 2006
EAGLE – William Stone was determined to have his say.
As the Eagle County Commissioners were leaving their hearing room Tuesday, Stone, technically off the official record, but in full view and earshot of several dozen Beaver Creek property owners, called Tuesday’s hearing a “kangaroo court,” bought and paid for by Vail Resorts.
That was the climax of a commissioners’ hearing that grew more heated as it became obvious the board would rule that Vail Resorts has the authority to build an alpine slide in the Haymeadow area near the Centennial Express chairlift. Homeowners associations around that area have vigorously opposed the resort company’s plans. Following the hearing, several residents said they’d favor filing suit against the plan.
“We’ll certainly be part of (a suit),” property owner Charles Blauer said as he left the county administration building.
And Rick Johnson, an attorney for the Beaver Creek Property Owners Association, alluded to more legal action when he tried to question Commissioner Arn Menconi about his ties to the resort company. Assistant County Attorney Bob Morris advised Menconi not to answer Johnson’s questions, and Commissioner Peter Runyon called a quick recess. After several minutes, the commissioners returned to approve the slide unanimously; their decision hinged on a fairly narrow point of law.
That point is whether Eagle County Community Development Director Keith Montag made the right decision about Vail Resorts plans back in June. Montag ruled then that Vail Resorts had the authority to build a slide on land it owns at Haymeadow without further county review.
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The homeowners appealed that decision on several technical grounds.
But, when Commissioner Tom Stone asked Johnson to distill the neighbors’ opposition to the slide, Johnson was succinct.
“It’s a nuisance,” Johnson said. “It’s incompatible with a residential community, which is what Beaver Creek has become.”
Johnson also said the slide represents a “breach of trust” between Vail Resorts and the people who have bought homes there. That trust was breached when the resort company deleted the words “alpine slide” from a 1994 revision to its land use approvals, then came back 12 years later with a plan for a slide, he added.
“We don’t view it as a breach of trust,” Vail Resorts attorney Diane Mauriello said. “We take these comments and concerns very seriously.”
Mauriello said the company intends to build a “state-of-the-art” slide in the area.
“It’s not going to ruin the environment,” she said.
William Stone wasn’t buying the company’s comments.
“We know we’ve been cheated,” he said. “There’s fact, there’s law and there’s politics, and politics isn’t supposed to have anything to do with fact and law.”
Local politics made it “impossible for anyone, but Vail to prevail here,” William Stone added.
A member of the Highlands Lodge Homeowners Association Board of Directors, William Stone said he couldn’t say for certain whether his group would join a lawsuit against the resort company.
“But I think all 2,000 people who oppose this are going to appeal.”
If an appeal is filed, it would be heard in District Court in Eagle.
Vail Resorts officials didn’t have much to say after the vote, and referred questions to the company’s corporate headquarters in Broomfield. Late in the afternoon Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Kat3z released a one-paragraph statement:
“We’re pleased that the Board of~County Commissioners upheld the decision of their staff. We see the Beaver Creek alpine slide as another plus for a world-class resort, which addresses the needs of one of our most important guests Ð kids.
“Our current plan is to put the slide in by the end of the summer. However, as requested of us by the Board of County Commissioners, we intend to continue to talk to the homeowners about all of our options,” Katz said.
Blauer said he hopes the ski company will take an option that hasn’t been talked about much -Ð put the slide on the ski mountain, and away from his neighborhood.
“The answer is simple,” Blauer said. “Apply to the (U.S.) Forest Service and put it up on the mountain, and nobody will object. It might take a couple of years. And they don’t seem to want to wait that long.”