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Letters to the editor

editor@vaildaily.com

OK, I’ve had it this time. How many more lies can you and “your” newspaper tell? Do you take us ALL for a bunch of dimwits? Please quit this nonsense NOW!

On page A12 of the 09 September edition of the Vail Daily there is an article by Geraldine Haldner entitled “Vail is moving on with Middle Creek.” Please allow me to quote paragraph 7. “As proposed, Middle Creek would be financed completely WITHOUT (my emphasis) taxpayers’ money on Vail land as part of a 50-year lease with the private developer. So far $13.5 million have been committed in PUBLIC (my emphasis) subsidies from Eagle County, state and federal housing authorities.”

HELLO? Where do you think these PUBLIC subsidies originate? I assure you, it is NOT from the Easter Bunny (or the Tooth Fairy). These subsidies come from the sales TAX that I pay, from the Eagle County Real Estate TAX that I pay, from the Colorado State Income TAX that I pay, and from the Federal Income TAX that I pay. How dare you allow such a statement in “your” newspaper that this project is being financed ” … completely WITHOUT taxpayers’ money … .” That is a blatant untruth.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. But everyone should be held to the same standard of truth. Come on, D.R., play by the rules. Do NOT continue to lie. Just present the facts. That is your job, your responsibility to this community. Then let everyone make their own decision.

Bill Rodkey

Editor’s note: The offending sentence should have made clearer that Vail municipal-tax payers would not be contributing further direct revenue to the project during the 50-year lifeof the lease. Many affordable housing projects in the state are in part funded from public grants and loans, which of course come from public taxation.

Answer is to build

I would like answer the questions raised and refute some assertions made by Gay Steadman in her letter to the editor Sept.10. I actually bothered to contact the town of Vail and the developer of the Mountain Bell site for these answers. I am not sure why Ms. Steadman did not elect to do the same. I am concerned that her opinions, assumptions and inaccuracies will be taken for facts, and I do hope that the difference between the facts and my personal opinions is more clear.

“The land at the Mountain Bell site was zoned Open Space to be used by residents and visitors for mountain biking and hiking.”

The land at the Mountain Bell site was zoned General Use and Natural Area Preservation District. Almost 22 acres of the 25-acre site will still be landscape area or Natural Area Preservation District once the development is built. Another 25 acre RETT parcel is adjacent to the site on the east side. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the best access to the land was removed due to the construction of Spraddle Creek. The residents did not want the existing trail head parking in their gated community.

“The town of Vail rezoned the land to permit low-density, low-cost housing subsidized by merchant employers for seasonal employees to put them within walking distance of the work place. Were all the correct procedures followed by council; was everything done legally with no shortcuts to reach this point?”

At no time was the land zoned for low-density, low-cost housing, as there is no such zone district. The town amended the land use designation for the Mountain Bell site to High Density Residential, and rezoned the parcel to Housing Zone District. The procedures to do so include: a review by the Planning and Environmental Commission (PEC), a recommendation from the PEC to the Town Council (PEC recommended approval), two readings of an ordinance to amend the official zoning map, and a resolution to amend the land use designation. All of these procedures were followed at two public meetings of the PEC in September of 2001, and two public meetings of the Town Council in October of 2001.

“The project described above mutated into a much larger, more densely occupied apartment complex nearly as tall as the microwave tower without the approval of town residents.”

The original 146-unit concept was made available to the public for comments and “approval of the town’s residents” one year ago at six different open houses in August and September of 2001. Display ads, Public Notices, and articles in the Vail Daily advertised these meetings. Other than a few elected and appointed town officials, parents of children who attend the ABC School and the Learning Tree, and a well known “lobbyist” for the Vail Village Homeowners’ Association, very few citizens showed up. Additionally, the development has been on the agenda of 20 public meetings of the Town Council, PEC, and the Design Review Board (DRB). The current proposal “mutated” to a smaller 142 units and is 30 feet (three stories) shorter than the existing Mountain Bell tower.

“Was a new master plan created and followed using the correct procedures to reach this point?”

A “new master plan” was not required.

“How will this project impact Vail residents who now rent to seasonal employees?”

Hard to say, but my opinion is that this project may impact people who currently rent their units at over-priced rates by making them re-evaluate and possibly adjust their rents should they wish to continue to attract seasonal tenants. Considering that the going rate for a bedroom (not a one-bedroom unit) in Vail during the winter season is approximately $600 a month, some competition in the rental market sure seems like a good thing. Proposed Middle Creek rental rates start at $540 for a studio unit.

“Has an environmental impact study been done?”

Yes. So have two different housing needs assessments, which illustrate how direly the town needs a rental development. Copies of all three studies are available at the town Community Development Department.

“Why didn’t the Vail Daily keep taxpayers adequately informed while the project grew from a small employer subsidized project to a large complex that will have an absentee landlord?”

I believe that there was an editor’s note that addressed this question. Additionally, according to the Vail Daily, at least 15 news articles and six editorials (not to mention over 30 letters) on the Middle Creek development have appeared in the paper since the spring of 2001. Numerous calls to the “TipsLine” have also been published, although I understand that some are not fans of the forum.

There is no “absentee landlord.” The developer is providing 24-hour on-site management through its own development company.

“There was a tremendous leap in the size and scope of the project.”

Again, the original development proposal called for 146 units, the current plan calls for 142.

“Some Vail voters feel like this all took place under the radar and they have been ignored by the council.”

Again, over 50 articles, letters and editorials, and 20 public meetings.

“Is it a fact that employees working in Avon and Edwards would also be eligible to rent at this project?”

The fact is, employees in Vail will ALWAYS have priority to rent these units. Only if no employee from within the town applies will downvalley employees have the opportunity to rent these units. Rental guidelines to this effect drafted by the Vail Local Housing Authority (VLHA) have been accepted by the developer. Additionally, it would seem to me that if a downvalley worker was given the opportunity to live in Vail, he or she would not only contribute their spending money to the hurting sales tax base, but could decide that they prefer to work in Vail, as well. After all, isn’t “Vail” the reason many people who can only afford to live downvalley moved here in the first place?

“Is the Denver developer who will have the 50-year lease to collect rents and maintain the complex required to obtain proof that renters’ incomes qualify them for this type of employee housing?”

Yes. The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) both have very strict selection criteria and reporting requirements. The developer will have to meet every guideline relating to bond financing set forth by both entities.

“Who is going to make sure that the complex is properly maintained?”

Maintenance standards set by the state (CHFA) and federal (HUD) governments must be met at all times. Additionally, all aspects of managing the property, including maintenance, must be approved by the VLHA as spelled out in an acceptable management plan.

“Has the council considered that we will certainly need a pedestrian overpass form the project to the other side of the Interstate? Otherwise the town will surely have to expect lawsuits from those injured or killed getting through the roundabouts or crossing the interstate on foot.”

I don’t know if the council has considered the necessity for an overpass. However, required traffic studies have been done, and the addition of a new town bus stop and extended bike path included in the development plan have been deemed very acceptable solutions for providing access into town. Crossing I-70 on foot, of course, is illegal. Why would the town expect a lawsuit stemming from an individual’s choice to break the law, or due to the negligence of a careless driver in the roundabout? I personally don’t anticipate that anyone living in this development would have the interest or the means to file a frivolous suit against the town.

“A large housing complex such as you would see in a city, accompanied by a pedestrian overpass. Is it wise to build something like this at the entrance to Vail? Or do vacationers come to get away from just this sort of urban landscape for a while?”

No overpass is proposed, and frankly, I am a little confused as to whether Ms. Steadman is for or against a pedestrian overpass. Does she suggest that it be built to keep away “lawsuits” or not build it, so as not to offend her perceived sensibilities of our out-of-town guests?

“Something like this” at the debatable “entrance to Vail” shows out-of-towners that we believe our employees are an important part of our community. Furthermore, employees who live close to work are more apt to be happy, on time and ready to provide the customer service we need in order to continue to be successful as a resort. I am fairly certain that our guests will notice exemplary service far more than a development on the opposite side of the highway.

As for the “urban landscape,” the proposed development will cover only 1.189 acres of the entire 25-acre site, leaving over 87 percent of the site as landscaped area and Natural Area Preservation District. I am not aware of any urban area that surrounds its developments with 21.8 acres of undeveloped land.

“Again, why not put the employee housing on the village side of the highway where the town offices now sit? There’s lots of under-utilized land there, and it’s flat and easy to build on. The building could be five stories tall, have underground parking, and be designed along the lines of the new Sonnenalp, with its charming, varied townhouse façade. Construction would be much cheaper because of the level site. Maybe even local contractors would be interested in bidding on the job.”

Putting Ms. Steadman’s possible lack of understanding for construction estimating aside (I don’t believe that any “affordable” housing project will ever be built that is designed along the lines of the Sonnenalp), why not put ADDITIONAL employee housing on at site of the Town offices? Believe it or not, not even 142 units at Mountain Bell will begin to address the housing needs of our town. It is time to wake up and realize that with the current lack of available land, we cannot afford to give up ANY potential housing site. The Mountain Bell land was identified as an appropriate site for affordable housing in 1994 in the town of Vail Comprehensive Open Lands Plan, in 1997 as a result of the Vail Tomorrow public process, and in 1998 as a result of the Common Ground public process. Over 400 Vail residents participated in the two public processes. The time to debate the site is over. The time to build is now.

Karen Williams

Vail

A scorcher

Tens of millions of acres were burning throughout the country this summer. Beautiful forests reduced to ashes. Homes destroyed. Animals roasted.

One-sided arguments by environmentalists convinced a generation of people – and lawmakers – to support bad forest management policies.

Foresters, for example, once built firebreaks, which are roads through forests intended to stop or slow a fire’s progress and to provide access for firefighters. But environmentalists claimed that roads in forests are not “natural.”

Boulder’s Mark Udall is up for re-election; if he wins, he will be Eagle County’s next U.S. representative. Udall’s wife is also president of the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club, which has long maintained an unreasonable and dangerous “zero-cut” policy that bans ALL forest thinning.

Udall admires such extremists as California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who continues her annual push for more “wilderness” where trees are worshiped until they are turned into charcoal by ill-advised forest management policies. Udall also supports Bill Clinton’s 58-million-acre “roadless” initiative that continues to remove access roads to “wilderness.”

What is called “conservation biology” is little more than zealotry with a splash of science. We need a major change and “firestarter” Udall and his wife will give us only more of these narrow, dangerous views and policies.

Ron T. Howell

Eagle-Vail

Health fair today

As local kids settle into their classrooms across Eagle County, today marks the fourth anniversary of an event designed to make sure school gets off to a great start.

The Back-to School Health and Safety Fair provides kids and parents with vital information on topics ranging from seat belt use to Internet safety.

More than 75 volunteers are expected at the event including representatives from local fire, police and rescue organizations, Vail Valley Medical Center and Eagle County School District.

At the 2001 fair, 60 children received wellness physicals and approximately 250 children learned how to use fire extinguishers. Eighty safety helmets were distributed to children, 25 car seats were checked for safety and eight care seats were given to parents. More than 100 door prize registrations were filled out, revealing that children from all parts of the county participated in the event.

The 2002 Back to School Health and Safety Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Berry Creek Middle School. All area kids and parents are encouraged to attend. The effort will be well worth your time and your kids will thank you for it.

Pam Boyd

Eagle County

School District


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