Builders: Housing rules unfair
VAIL – Employee housing is important, said attendees at Tuesday’s Vail Town Council meeting.But too much of the burden is on builders under a proposal to create more employee housing, said audience members – many of whom were developers or people looking to expand their homes.”It is socialistic,” said Dave Cole, a Vail resident. “This has never been the People’s Republic of Berkeley or the People’s Republic of Boulder. This is Vail, Colorado.”Cole’s words were met with cries of approval and applause from the standing-room-only crowd of over 100 people, who were then asked to be quiet.The town is trying to draft new employee housing rules that would keep 30 percent of its employees living in town. Thirty percent of employees now live in Vail, but that number is expected to drop unless employee housing is added. Almost every one of dozens of commenters spoke in opposition to the current proposal, which would require 30 percent of new homes to be employee housing.It would also require new stores to build employee housing for 20 percent of the jobs they create.Thomas Burney of Vail, a carpenter, said he’s the type of person who would live in employee housing. But the rules would hurt him because they will stifle the development that gives him work, he said.”It’s indirectly hurting a lot of the people you want to help,” he said.
Several council members seemed to defend the need for employee housing.”I have the political will,” said Councilman Mark Gordon. “I was put in office to enact these types of legislation.”While many attendees at the meeting objected to the proposals, Gordon said he’s heard from many people who are saying the opposite, from a ski patroller to his next-door neighbor.”They want to have the American dream and own property, but they can’t afford to be in Vail,” Gordon said.Home developers said they are being unfairly singled out. But residential development is simply more profitable than commercial development, said Councilman Greg Moffet. Plus, commercial property owners bear a disproportionately high tax burden in town, Moffet said.Several council members said they favored exemptions for single-family homes and duplexes.”We’ll find the right exemptions,” said Councilman Kent Logan.Redevelopment of the town’s Timber Ridge worker housing and the development of the Hud Wirth site are part of the solution, said Mayor Rod Slifer.
Many said the rules unfairly target developers and that the requirements would make development unfeasible.”The inequity of this propopal is just outrageous,” said Brent Biggs of Vail.Pat Dauphinais of Eagle-Vail said he is being penalized because some employers haven’t compensated for the employees they are creating.”They have not, for whatever reason, handled themselves in an appropriate, forward-thinking manner,” he said.One attendee suggested that, if the current proposal is approved, residents would challenge it with a referendum, as they did last summer when the Solaris development was approved.Attendees suggested alternative solutions. Some said a property tax should pay for housing. Others said developers could be given incentives such as more liberal building rules if they build lots of employee housing. Others urged collaboration.”I think the town needs to get involved with the county,” said Frank McKibben of East Vail.More and more jobs are being created in Vail, and more and more homes are being snatched up by second-home owners and retirees. By 2020, almost all workers in Vail will live in some type of employee housing, town officials say.Projects that are already approved will add 1,500 jobs in coming years. The next wave of redevelopment may add 2,115 jobs, town officials say. Other projections say development in Avon and Edwards will add 7,370 more jobs.The proposals would have to be approved by the planning commission, and then the Town Council.Every project approved after early November would be subject to the new rules, whatever they may be.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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