Mountain Village scraps affordable housing plan |

Mountain Village scraps affordable housing plan

Allen Best

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, Colo. As is the case in most of the mountain resorts, the twin towns of Telluride and Mountain Village have been wrestling with the teeter-totter issues of affordable housing and open space. The towns estimate they collectively need 1,000 units of lower-cost housing.Earlier this winter, Telluride residents emphatically chose to proceed with condemnation of land at the town’s entry for open space, rejecting a compromise that would have yielded some of the land for affordable housing. Some estimate the cost of preserving the eye-pleasing open space, not including legal fees, will run to $35 million, if the condemnation succeeds.If affordable housing is not provided at home, the need is usually exported. That’s what Mountain Village figured to do, putting 103 acres under contract about 10 miles to the southwest along the San Miguel River. The property would have yielded 112 units.But in the face of protests from the Nature Conservancy and other environmentally oriented foes, Mountain Village has withdrawn the plan, reports The Telluride Watch. “We probably all know in our gut that this isn’t the right thing to do on this lot,” said Penelope Gleason, president of the Mountain Village Owners Association.Nature Conservancy representative Mallory Dimmitt cited noise and other impacts to riparian and wetlands areas, plus interference with elk and deer migration.But the problem remains, and among those problems is a lack of dirt that is considered appropriate. “Within a 30-mile radius, this is the only substantive piece of real estate,” said Davis Fansler, mayor of Mountain Village. He insists that Mountain Village should not be left holding the bag for what he described as a “regional crisis.”There seems to be a great deal of finger-pointing. Mountain Village, before it became a town, was authorized by San Miguel County, which had no exacting standards regarding affordable housing. “We didn’t create the Mountain Village,” said Jonathon Greenspan, a town councilman. “The county put the density and zoning in here.”For that matter, while Telluride has taken a deliberate stab at providing affordable housing, it also imports much of its workforce from outlying communities.So what’s the answer ultimately? While the speculation in Telluride is that a major affordable housing complex is likely in the town of Norwood, 20 miles away, many continue to see the ultimate landlord, the U.S. Forest Service, as the ultimate answer.Along the I-70 corridor, Vail Associates, as the predecessor of Vail Resorts was then known, made an effort in the early 1990s to get use of Forest Service land to house ski area employees. Human capital was as essential to running a ski area as snowmaking or cafeterias, argued the company. But the Forest Service rejected that idea, arguing that as long as the ski company used its own property to develop high-end real estate, it had no right to ask for use of government land. Since then, in fact, Vail has developed a great deal of employee housing.But while the ski industry has remained essentially flat, the mountain valleys have also grown rapidly. In Aspen, for example, the ski company has only 2,000 employees at its peak, compared with 16,000 year-round jobs.Steamboat firefighters need helpSTEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. There’s some heartburn in Steamboat Springs about the ability of the fire department to respond to a major fire. As the city has grown in population and territory, the fire department has not grown proportionately. The result has been more calls for help, which has caused Steamboat to call in outlying communities to the west and south for help, explains The Steamboat Pilot and Today. Bryan Rickman, who is chief of a fire protection district based in Hayden, 27 miles west of Steamboat, says his department has been called to assist Steamboat more times during the past three months than in the rest of the past 32 years.Steamboat has 12 full-time firefighters. The recruitment of non-paid volunteers has slackened since pension benefits were withdrawn.Vail, Colorado

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