Vail Town Council Candidate: Kim Newbury
Having served for the past four years, I believe I have been a fair, effective, dedicated, productive member of the Town Council. I have carefully studied issues, and have made every effort to make decisions that are in the best interest of the Town of Vail and its citizens. As the town continues to face ongoing critical issues, it will be vital to have continuity and experience among council members. I believe I can contribute a high level of knowledge, competence, and common sense as we continue to address these issues.
In my opinion, there are three major issues facing Vail in the near term. The first issue is workforce housing ” the ability for employers to attract and maintain employees is severely limited by the shortfall in affordable housing. The second issue, which is inextricably tied to housing, is transportation and parking. As more employees live outside town boundaries, fewer workers use our free bus system and more cars commute into town each day, straining our parking system. The third issue is the impact of pine beetle infestation. To protect the welfare and investments of our citizens, we must continue our efforts at mitigating those impacts.
Having served on this Town Council, I think the group has been very focused and successful. The Town of Vail is recognized as a leader regionally and nationwide for our efforts on the issues of housing, minimizing construction impacts, pine beetle mitigation, and I-70 corridor impacts and planning. Our support of recreation (rebuilding Pirate Ship Park, upgrading Bighorn Park, building the gymnastics facility, installing a new skate park in Lionshead), open space (we’ve purchased and/or dedicated over 90 acres within the town limits), and public art (streetscape improvements, Children’s Fountain) remains unmatched in our area.
I support the redevelopment of the Lionshead parking structure because the proposed development addresses important goals and issues before the town. First and foremost, the structure is nearing the end of its effective lifespan, and the redevelopment will replace an aging asset with a new, state-of-the art facility, increasing the number of town-owned spaces. Secondly, as a municipality reliant on sales tax for revenue, it has been long-standing public policy in the Town of Vail to add hotel rooms and retail space whenever possible. The plans include two luxury hotels and a variety of new shops and restaurants.
The town has certainly had a tremendous amount of redevelopment, but we have done a phenomenal job of mitigating impacts and informing the public about potential challenges. Although several large-scale projects have affected the community, many that impact our citizens are smaller projects in our neighborhoods, which usually are “use by right” ” in other words, provided the development meets zoning and design guidelines, an owner does not need special permission to build. Development is inevitable, however, we must continue to diligently monitor projects large and small and insist that developers abide by guidelines and rules controlling construction.
Why, or why not, does the town need affordable/employee housing within its borders? How should the town of Vail encourage/build/require employee housing?
The town has taken a leadership role in trying to ensure that there is enough affordable workforce housing through purchasing Timber Ridge, building Middle Creek, sponsoring Vail Commons and other for-sale developments, and passing and enforcing new housing regulations (inclusionary zoning and commercial linkage). Without a variety of housing options available to renters and buyers (including both market-rate units and affordable housing), we will face a shortage of employees in businesses, our parking infrastructure will be burdened, and our neighborhoods will consist of fewer full-time residents. The Town of Vail must lead housing efforts, or the crisis will worsen.
We should continue our work creating a wildland fire interface by removing trees affected by pine beetle infestation. We should further explore the viability of a regional biomass energy plant. The town needs to continue the program that replaces regular buses with hybrid buses. We should promote green building both in our codes and in practice. And we must maintain our efforts at removing traction sand from Black Gore Creek on Vail Pass, to prevent it from choking our most precious resource, Gore Creek.
Although I generally support the idea of a construction use tax, I’m concerned about the potential impact of the tax on smaller developments. More information should be provided about potential exemptions and valuation thresholds. Regardless of whether the tax passes, during the annual budget review Town Council must also take a closer look at the items in the five-year capital project plan, and make informed decisions about which items are “must-haves” and which are not.
Q: Ski or snowboard?