Vail housing rules get initial OK
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL ” There is a continuing debate in the Town of Vail over how best to bring much needed affordable housing to the community. While most agree the lack of employee housing is a problem, very few agree on who should have to pay to build it.
On Tuesday night, the Town Council heard from public members who weighed in on the council’s plan to create enough deed-restricted employee housing for 30 percent of the work force and gave their own opinions, too.
“This is everybody’s responsibility,” Councilwoman Kim Newbury said. “It’s not the government’s responsibility, not the business owners’, not the second-home owners’ or any one group’s responsibility. It is all of ours.”
Three separate ordinances to amend the town’s housing code will require those building or renovating businesses or commercial residences to provide payment to the town for employee housing. The amount that will have to be paid is yet to be determined, but the number of employees payment will be made for is based upon a formula the town has developed.
Under the plan, retail shops will have to pay to build housing for two-and-a-half employees per 1,000 new square feet of business area. Real estate offices are required to pay for five employees per 1,000 square feet, but conference facilities are only required to pay for eight tenths of an employee per 1,000 square feet.
“How is it fair to burden new businesses with housing problems that have been there for 40 years, and I don’t see how they come up with the numbers they did” said Bill Pierce, member of the Planning and Development Commission. “Creating a solution to the problem should be shared by everybody, not just the newcomers.”
The Planning and Development Commission unanimously recommended the council deny the plan and explore other options, Pierce said.
Final decisions on what type of housing ” single-family, condominiums, town houses or dormatory ” and where the homes would be built have not been made, and Pierce said it is unacceptable to pass an ordnance for the unknown.
“We don’t have a lot of room to build, so where do they expect to build all this housing,” Pierce said. “They should not collect all this money and have nothing to do with it. Even if there was a plan for where they would build, they don’t know what they want to build.”
Not just a resort
The council heard from business owners who said their priority is housing for “front-line workers” that are typically seasonal workers.
Only providing seasonal housing is unacceptable Councilman Greg Moffet who said he and others on council ran on the platform of upholding Vail as a community and not just a resort town.
“Personally, I don’t want to address it because I like living around families, but it’s not about what I want,” Councilman Farrow Hitt said. “I was elected to do what is best for everyone. I agree that there are families who are also front-line workers as Greg (Moffet) said, and we need to look at what our housing needs are.”
No matter what type of housing the council ultimately decides to build, the responsibility for funding it will fall on the new businesses, Pierce said.
“There is such an inequality to the plan and the only fair way to handle it is to create a tax that everybody has to pay,” Pierce said. “If housing was rated as the most important issue for the public, get the public as a whole to pay for it.”
Getting the voters to approve a property tax is nearly impossible and would not meet the council’s deadline of creating a plan by April 15, Councilman Farrow Hitt said.
The council set a deadline for themselves to allow time for an affordable housing strategy to be in place before considering plans from developers who are waiting to have their proposals approved, Hitt said.
Waiting for the Eagle County Blue Ribbon Commission who are studying the countywide need for affordable housing was another suggestion that didn’t fit into the council’s timetable.
“There is a county initiative to look at the problem, and I think we should wait to see what they find and work with the Blue Ribbon panel,” Sarah Thosteinson said.
Waiting for the county to come to a conclusion on housing “may leave few options,” Moffet said.
The Planning and Environmental Commission was not tasked with forming a recommendation or suggesting alternatives, and they did not look at the current codes to see how to integrate the proposed ones as they were asked to do, Hitt said.
The council voted to bring the plan back for a second reading, and instructed town staff to fine-tune the ordinances before the April 3 meeting.
Staff Writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.