Of course we need Middle Creek
There are better uses for our land, its citizens claimed, place those things elsewhere, best of all down valley. Or hide them somewhere, in the forest, behind Safeway, or on someone’s private property, like Vail Resorts. Of course, this is our town of Vail.
Now that the town, through the Real Estate Transfer Tax and other means, has bought up and tied up more than 30 percent of the land within its boundaries while the federal government owns most of the land outside of them, we have run out of alternatives to using some of our precious land for siting some of the above mentioned humble but necessary amenities. Reasonably, I believe, municipal leaders now want to use some for these purposes.
Mountain Bell/Middle Creek is the only unencumbered vacant parcel within the town’s borders large enough to allow economical achievement of these common purposes. Have the protests of the powerful and moneyed opponents merit to match their political weight? Here’s my reading of them.
1.Not at Vail’s Front Door
Bachelor Gulch with its Ritz-Carlton and mega-houses has seasonal employee housing in Vail Resorts’ River Edge and The Tarnes at its front door. Both are actually reasonably to quite attractive, far more so than the ski area parking lot which also graces this front door.
In Vail Village have we forgotten that “a highway runs through it?” Why not well-designed community facilities at the I-70 interchange?
The executive director of the Village Homeowners Assoc-iation, the primary opposition group, has long advocated putting a freight distribution facility for village merchants on this site.
Is that a better, more attractive use than the proposed one? Or would opponents prefer more expensive housing for mostly absentee homeowners, or additional high end retail for visitors? Could it be that private developers are salivating over this 22-acre parcel? I think the proposed uses for the common good are the best long-term use of this sizable parcel.
The Housing Authority’s developer initially proposed a cluster of eight 2- to 5-story buildings on the parcel. This design was rejected as too sprawling, having too much impact on the environment. Parking lots hidden behind the buildings and visible only from Vail Mountain were rejected as unsightly. A higher ratio of parking spots to residents than exists at Vail Resorts’ River Edge was demanded.
The resulting design was two stories of buried underground parking and a more “massive,” consolidated three buildings, the highest again a 5-story structure, all utilizing just two acres of the site. How is the proposed 97,000 square feet for 142 apartments, 252 beds, more jarring than the 8,000-square-foot houses dotting the Spraddle Creek hillside?
Why does Middle Creek need so much parking? Why underground? How many locals have such a convenience? After all, the proposed facilities are extremely convenient to the village, the bike path, and the bus route to West Vail shopping.
I suggest protesters who doubt this convenience take a bus ride and check this for themselves. Most full-time residents agree the free town buses are one of the best municipal amenities in Vail.
4.Place it Elsewhere/Let Someone Else Do It
A trade for enough Forest Service land can be anticipated about the same time as the Second Coming. Vail Resorts is doing pretty close to its share for employee housing and has been for some time. The need is far greater than individual merchants can supply though many maintain housing units for their employees.
5.We Don’t Need It
Surveys show Eagle County has consistently a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent. To look at summer rentals in a post-9/11 year is misleading to say the least.
The gap in supply is for affordable housing units for the six winter months. Imagine a good snow year when the huge retail expansion below Dowd Junction comes on line.
Vail will no longer be even vaguely competitive in the labor market. Those who live downvalley will prefer to work downvalley. To resurrect a metaphor used before in local housing discussion, even the fanciest cruise ship must make room on board for its crew.
The most hopeful thing about the uproar over this housing proposal is the parallel to previous successful, even acclaimed locals’ housing projects. Every one of them was bitterly protested and denounced by neighbors, e.g. Vail Commons, the Potato Patch units, the West Vail ones.
I suspect the protesters’ complaints will be similarly forgotten if Middle Creek becomes a reality.
As the president of the Village Homeowners proposed, “let’s stop fighting and get together to build sensible and affordable housing.”
Like Goldilocks, let’s find a design that is “just right” for this site.
A great response
I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Dennis Gelvin, Roby Forsyth, and Steve Fosson of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District for their quick responses in helping the town of Avon following the heavy rains and mudslides during the week of August 5.
ERWSD lent us manpower and machinery free of charge to help unclog the culverts on Nottingham Road. Their quick response proved invaluable in our clean-up efforts.
It’s nice to see cooperation between local entities during emergency situations such as this. The ERWSD stepped up to the plate and hit a home run for Avon.
Should the occasion arise, we hope to be able to return the favor as expeditiously.
Director of Public Works
Town of Avon