Letter: Trouble with Eagle Co. housing plan
Vail CO, Colorado
Dear Planning Commission Members:
I wanted to offer some insights into the proposed affordable housing guidelines for your consideration. I apologize for not getting a letter to you sooner but analyzing these “guidelines” is extraordinarily difficult. I should also state that my comments are based upon the December 11, 2007 draft as I just received the draft dated January 8, 2008 yesterday. I have quickly compared the numbers and I think you will find that my analysis and points raised here would still be applicable to the new draft in terms of magnitude.
First, I think the term “guidelines” is a misnomer. It only takes a few minutes of reading to see words like “shall” and “must” and when you finish reading you understand quite clearly that these are in fact regulations. The only difference is that there is discretion provided to the Board of County Commissioners to negotiate a housing plan on a case-by-case basis.
Second, I noticed that the updated analysis no longer includes the analysis of the impacts of residential development on the generation of employees. The 2005 analysis prepared for Eagle County does include an analysis of the impact of residential development on the generation of employees. I think that understanding the actual impacts from residential development is important when reviewing the county’s proposed affordable housing guidelines. Take the following development scenario for example:
– 100,000 square feet of residential development with 100 dwelling units
– Nexus study predicts a total of 10.8 employees to be housed
– That translates to 5,400 square feet total at a generous 500 square feet per employee
– Nexus study predicts 0.13 employees for a dwelling of 1,000 to 1,499 square feet
– Proposed guidelines require 50,000 square feet of restricted and affordable housing
– This translates to 100 employees at 500 square feet per employee
– The result is mitigation for 925 percent of the actual impact
I am sure that you will hear from your housing director that such a “nexus” or proportionality is not legally required and while I disagree with that conclusion the fact is still there that the proposed “guidelines” go well beyond mitigating the demand created by an individual project and appear to be attempting to address other pre-existing shortfalls within the county. Addressing the shortfall should be a burden we all as citizens need to address and not be a burden placed solely on current developers or landowners. The guidelines should be revised to reflect just the impacts of development per the 2005 study.
My third point has to do with the complexity of the regulations. I have been reviewing and drafting regulations for more than 17 years. The proposed regulations or guidelines are very difficult to understand. There are many inconsistencies within the regulations and quite frankly they are just not well drafted. I don’t think the county needs 26 pages of regulations. Vail’s recent housing regulations were created in about six pages. I would recommend that one of your many seasoned planners rewrite the regulations to be straight forward, concise and fair, as they are accustom to doing.
My fourth and final point is that the regulations require substantial governmental involvement in every project developed in the county. Additionally, they require the development of a substantial and unnecessary governmental bureaucracy. The amount of unnecessary work generated by these regulations will create hundreds of thousands of dollars in county expense that could instead be used for things like down-payment assistance. It almost appears as if the bureaucracy is being purposefully created to support the idea of creating a housing authority.
Thank you for considering my input on this important issue and I hope the Eagle County Planning Commission makes a recommendation on the guidelines.
Dominic F. Mauriello, AICP