Romer: Here we go again with workforce housing debate (column)
September 7, 2017
To say something that stretches the truth and then hope that what is said will become accepted as truth is commonly known as "throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks." This is often easier than simply focusing on facts. Point in case, the Vail Homeowners Association and its shifting positions in opposition to development of the Vail Resorts parcel in East Vail for critically needed workforce housing.
NIMBY (not in my back yard) opposition is often based on misperceptions or misguided information regarding a project's impact on its surrounding area. No matter how much a housing proposal is needed by the community at large, someone is bound to object, and such opposition often achieves its goal of derailing projects before they start.
The Vail Homeowners Association, as evidenced by recent editorials, is using this tactic. First, this group opposed the proposed rezoning of Vail Resorts' privately owned land in East Vail due to density issues, crowded buses and (God forbid) exposing our visitors to workforce housing as a first impression when they enter the town via Interstate 70 from the east. The Vail Homeowners Association then quickly shifted tactics to focus on environmental concerns when called out for opposing already residentially zoned land changing to workforce housing zoning.
Regarding sustainability, the town of Vail, Walking Mountains and other stakeholders — including Vail Resorts — deserve kudos and credit for their efforts to make Vail a sustainable community. At the Vail Valley Partnership, we like to expand the definition of sustainability to include community.
As community leaders, it is important to ask ourselves if decisions and policies are likely to create outcomes that are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable. We encourage local policymakers to utilize the guiding principle of community sustainability as a sensible framework for decision-making that considers:
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• Economic sustainability: Is this decision likely to result in outcomes that are economically viable and will preserve and enhance quality of life?
• Environmental sustainability: Is this decision likely to result in outcomes that are environmentally sound and will preserve and enhance quality of life?
• Social sustainability: Is this decision likely to result in outcomes that are socially acceptable and will preserve and enhance quality of life?
'No More Housing in Vail'?
The Vail Homeowners Association's shifting efforts to oppose the East Vail zoning request is not in the spirit of community sustainability. This is not open space (it's zoned residential) and is as inoffensive as can be for workforce housing development. This is not the last wildlife habitat in the town of Vail; in the Booth Falls and Bald Mountain Road neighborhood there are more than 120 acres of town of Vail-owned, Natural Area Preservation District-zoned open space.
The proposed rezoning would add 17.9 acres of Natural Area Preservation-zoned land as open space — 17.9 acres of privately owned land that is currently zoned for residential development. The fact is, the property is surrounded by town open space and federally owned lands that make up the bulk of the wildlife habitat in the area. Additionally, approximately 24 percent of the total land area within the town of Vail is zoned Natural Area Preservation. Less than 1 percent of the land area is zoned for workforce housing.
What the Vail Homeowners Association is saying is "no more housing in Vail," this time under the banner of environmental protection. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. Let's stick to facts and focus on community sustainability to enhance our quality of life.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.