Vail Valley Voices: Vail Conference center funds go to vote
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for September. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com
The town of Vail wants to put, in addition to special events and summer marketing, more capital support toward stimulating tourism economy and creating construction jobs.
The Town Council is asking voters to apply $9.4 million in existing tax revenue to improve facilities at Vail’s public golf course and Ford Park. The intended improvements are to polish up the image of critical facilities that host many tourism events and attractions. These finishing touches will allow event promoters to provide enhanced guest comforts and amenities.
As some see it, new opportunities would be opened — for example, expanding the outdoor entertainment venues in the summer and fall seasons on the Ford Park athletic fields. Estimates are that the fields could hypothetically accommodate a total capacity of 7,000 to 40,000 spectators.
There are few voters that have not already made up their minds as to how the $9.4 million should be spent. It has been debated in detail over the past two years.
The effects of the vote will be immediate with final design details to follow. Should the election issue fail at the polls, the $9.4 million will be proportionately distributed back over several years to the retail businesses and lodges from which it was collected.
Voter rights, a two-way street for Vail property owners? Most residents, whether full- or part-time property owners, share a common commitment to their Vail lifestyle. The economic importance of attracting new affluent destination guests, who may then become property owners, is critical. Shrinking current available real estate inventories is necessary to underwrite an increase in property values, as well as to stimulate investment in tangible community assets, such as jobs and services.
Engaging new property owners in the ongoing life of the community is essential. Without them, Vail cannot continue to sustain the broad range of non-governmental institutions that produce the diversity of activities pivotal to the local lifestyle.
As Vail’s population ages and participation decreases, it puts all institutions under stress. Methods must be found to draw newer residents and non-residents into active participation in these organizations and local government.
As Vail property ownership becomes more international and global in its perspective, the challenges to initiate meaningful participation become all the more culturally complex.
The effectiveness of local government is put at a competitive leadership disadvantage because of an unequal balance in political representation for non-resident property owners, who are not allowed to vote in local elections.
Those who often possess highly valued skills, experience and as a group hold the largest financial interests in the community are relegated to the position of the least political influence.
Their potential could be put to better use through an affirmative vote by the local electorate granting them the right to vote through an amendment to the town’s Home Rule Charter. Interested citizens should push the Town Council to move forward on this issue.
Leadership pool shrinks with employment opportunities: The pool of local leadership, by some accounts, is shrinking. The dwindling of “new blood” in Vail is not a good sign of a healthy political process where new ideas and perspectives are a valuable commodity.
The opportunities to make a well-paying livelihood locally are under increasing stress. Many of those qualified to serve in public office nowadays are busy with making a living and raising their family. They have little spare time for additional responsibilities.
Job trend reports indicate a decline in the work force throughout Eagle County. As the local economy becomes more dependent on tourism, it is reckoned that the community’s workforce will increasingly be seasonal employees. They will be housed locally in subsidized higher-density affordable-housing projects or become commuters.
Non-resident property ownership increasing: These factors make it more likely that in Vail, the percentage of non-resident property ownership will increase beyond the 70 percent range it currently occupies.
To have such a high percentage of property ownership precluded from sharing the responsibility for guiding the community’s well-being is to estrange those most likely to make the investments necessary for its sustainability.
Also, political indifference by local voters toward enfranchising non-resident property owners puts at risk the generosity of those who have contributed to the many amenities and events that brand the Vail community as remarkable.
Town avoiding extending voter rights to non-residents: The town of Vail historically, rather than extend voting rights to its non-resident property owners, has turned to annexing residential neighborhoods or importing work force voters through the subsidization of affordable housing.
Both tactics have been rendered less influential with the onset of the great recession.
As the job market contracts, so does the demand for higher-density affordable housing.
There is an ample inventory of affordable housing in the rental and for-sale market within a reasonable commute.
Similarly, few property owners faced with annexation (e.g., the Highland Meadows neighborhood in West Vail) would willingly embrace an added layer of municipal government that will increase both their taxes and regulatory requirements.