Big issues face next Vail council |

Big issues face next Vail council

Lourdes FerzaccaVail, CO, Colorado

Vail Town Council elections have begun. Early voting started Oct. 23. If you have been listening to what locals have to say, you might have heard the words, Timber Ridge, quite a few times. If you still dont know why its a big issue, the Vail Chamber & Business Association is here to throw some light on the subject. Its a long and difficult process for businesses in Vail to fill job vacancies. And business owners are blaming this problem on the lack of affordable housing. Where are their employees going to live? With the redevelopment of Timber Ridge looming, its time for the business community to voice its opinion on what form that development should take. While there may eventually be other options in the future, right now, everyone is pointing to Timber Ridge as the quickest solution.There are a few considerations up as we look at the town-owned Timber Ridge. Basically, we all agree that Timber Ridge could house more occupants. There are two different entities, Open/Hillwood and Vail Resorts, that have come to the table with offers for its redevelopment. Open/Hillwood proposes to take the 198-unit complex with 600 beds and expand it to 1,400 seasonal/rental beds. In addition, the current town council has insisted that affordable, for-sale housing also be included. Vail Resorts, like Open/Hillwood, has offered to assume the $22 million debt on the complex and plans to build anywhere from 1,194 to 1,244 rental beds with none planned for sale although company officials have indicated their willingness to follow direction from the town. Why these two companies? Open/Hillwood and Vail Resorts are trying to meet the town-mandated housing requirements that are a result of their current and proposed developments. Vail Resorts owes the town 144 beds for Arrabelle and will have further requirements attached to EverVail. Open/Hillwood plans to redevelop the LionsHead structure for $620 million, thereby creating 600-plus new jobs that will have to have some housing created.The issue of the Timber Ridge expansion and employee housing in Vail is a huge one for the Vail Chamber & Business Association. There are mixed opinions coming from each candidate on what should be done with this 10-acre parcel. With the current demand for seasonal employees and the number of jobs that went unfilled last year, the Chambers position on the use of the Timber Ridge site is clear. Seasonal rental units are the priority.As more and more jobs are created through development in Vail and the rest of the valley, housing will become the single defining factor in our ability to provide service and the experience our guests have come to expect. This is why Timber Ridge is an issue, and this is why we need to decide, this election, who to vote for and how each candidate feels about the redevelopment of Timber Ridge.Before you vote, note that some candidates feel that the new Timber Ridge should include deed-restricted, for-sale affordable housing. This would make it a place where young families could use Timber Ridge as a stepping-stone into the housing market. There are other candidates who feel Timber Ridge should be a strictly seasonal, workforce housing complex. In a perfect world, we could accommodate all types of housing for all types of residents. But this is the real world and we must prioritize. The success of the business community is dependent on employees and that requires seasonal rental housing in Vail. So, before you cast your ballot, be sure to research how each town council candidate stands on not only Timber Ridge, but all issues. Be a responsible voter!Lourdes Ferzacca is president of the Vail Chamber & Business Association Board of Directors

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