Vail Daily column: Seeking areas of focus
Ryan Summerlin March 21, 2014
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.
The Vail Town Council started deliberations in early December on its “areas of focus” for the next two years by defining its goals, policy priorities and projects. As understood by the Homeowners Association, many of the objectives were in keeping with the goals and priorities of the association.
An initial draft of the council initiatives was turned over to the town staff to be fleshed out for final adoption. The resulting draft document, recently made available, grew in length and complexity. It now encompasses almost every conceivable issue, problem or action facing the town, all of which are given equal weight, so that, for example, recommended environmental actions to deal with Gore Creek pollution stand on equal footing with building a permanent skateboard park or “supporting TOV’s ongoing success.” In doing so, the draft plan omits any priorities for action and risks diluting the overall effectiveness of the entire plan. Unfortunately, it also contains a lot of “assess, review, study, conduct focus groups and/or develop strategies” for issues that are not new; something that is usually the bane of real progress.
The council is now planning to conduct additional deliberations on the matter. As those deliberations unfold, the Homeowners Association urges the Town Council to make the hard choices necessary for realistic goals and to differentiate between short-term goals and actions and those with more long-term implications. While favorable results in the short term are always desirable, it is the longer-term issues that can have the most consequences for the Vail community.
Keeping the longer view in focus can also avoid unintended consequences arising from short-term actions. In that respect, the Vail Homeowners Association urges that a major focus of Vail’s action plan should deal with two of its most serious long-term problems, the pollution of Gore Creek and community congestion, both of which degrade quality of life in the community. While the former is currently in the draft plan of action, the latter is only indirectly addressed. Several other issues, discussed below, also deserve special attention.
Pinnacle Of Success
Vail has evolved from being a geographically isolated “lifestyle” resort into a highly accessible globalized mega (exurban) resort on the fringe of the Denver metropolitan region. In the process, Vail has been recognized as reaching the pinnacle of hemispheric success, as well it should be. It has become the dominant hub of a developing urban area that stretches along nearly 60 miles of the I-70 Colorado intermountain corridor. That attainment has spawned both positive and negative consequences.
On the positive side, Vail offers an exceptional lifestyle with outstanding services and many cultural and recreational activities. Vail continues to add to Vail Resorts’ profitability. There are few places in the world that can begin to rival Vail’s quality of life, and no other location rivals its extraordinary range of cultural choices available. It is often said, the Vail “ticket” cannot be purchased anywhere else at any price and that makes Vail “the place to be.” However, staying atop this pedestal, in the face of expanding global competition, requires long-term strategic analysis and investment. Short-term spending for the promotion of economic development needs to be balanced with improving the natural and man-made environment of the community.
On the other hand, the attractiveness of Vail has created a growing set of long-term problems which Vail’s competitors are using to their advantage. Recently, Big Sky in Montana sought to capitalize on Vail’s congestion. Through recent land acquisitions, Big Sky now outsizes Vail by 500 acres. The theme of its marketing beckons consumers away from Vail and other mountain mega-resorts by playing upon negative images of urban congestion contrasted to Big Sky’s low density “elbow room,” which their remoteness bestows. It cannot be presumed that this is a “one-off” event and other competitors will probably also seek to take advantage of Vail’s drawbacks. Some analysts are predicting that Vail’s long-term problems could be its Achilles vulnerability if Vail policymakers do not act decisively to bring them under control.