Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Time to band together and fight the NIMBYs who surround us (column)
August 24, 2017
What is the role of government in helping solve our workforce housing shortage? Local government's greatest impact on housing cost is in regulating land use and building standards. Credit to our local governments for recognizing the need for locals' housing.
The fact is, government has a role and needs to be involved in housing. Government is involved in zoning, land use, density and regulatory issues surrounding new developments of any type — including workforce housing. The lack of government funding for workforce housing projects puts the onus on private interests to build workforce housing. New developments — ranging from large scale to smaller proposals — have come forth throughout the valley; each requires give and take with local governments regarding density, zoning, parking requirements and other factors.
We should celebrate these projects and private developers for proposing projects that do not seek public funding. Instead, we often find landowners and developers villainized, proof positive that no good deed goes unpunished.
Consider the most recent example: Vail Resorts recently announced it will seek to rezone a parcel of land it owns in East Vail with the goal of developing a community workforce-housing project that includes rental units and land to be preserved as open space.
For those who might have missed it, Vail Resorts owns a 23.3-acre parcel north of Interstate 70 located at the East Vail exit. The unplatted parcel has been zoned since at least the early 1980s as Two Family Residential, one of the town of Vail's duplex zone districts.
The proposal by Vail Resorts would split the single, unplatted parcel into two parcels. One, the larger of the two, would be rezoned to Natural Area Preservation District, the town's most restrictive zone district. The intent would be to maintain this approximately 17-acre parcel in its natural state.
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The western parcel would be rezoned to the Housing Zone District, the town's zone district dedicated to deed-restricted, workforce housing development. Upon rezoning, Vail Resorts would then attempt to secure a developer for a project on the land that would include some combination of seasonal and other workforce housing (a large portion of which would be leased by Vail Resorts).
Collectively, we should be applauding and supporting our largest employer for taking a proactive role in addressing workforce housing for it employees — beyond the current nearly 1,500 beds it already owns or leases and without any development obligation to do so. Yet, sadly, we are already seeing NIMBYs (not in my back yard) pop up, including the Vail Homeowners Association, which is actively advocating against this project — by a private developer, on private land with zoning — showing that NIMBY attitudes need to be consistently combatted.
Red-herring complaints such as "the buses will be too crowded" and "zoning for sale" are used to incite the anti-everything crowd. All Vail Resorts is doing right now is seeking rezoning to allow for a developer to come in with a yet-to-be determined workforce housing plan for the site.
Vail Valley Partnership, following the mission set forth by our board of governors, wants to ensure our community can remain competitive to keep locals local and to support our business community. Workforce and affordable housing have long been issues in Eagle County. Addressing our workforce housing issue is essential to the continued success and growth of our community and our businesses across industry sectors.
It is past time to band together to support common sense development and fight the NIMBYs who surround us.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.