Voboril: By increasing building height restrictions, we can build a mountain metropolis (column)
Success has its burdens. The founders of our burgh were visionaries, but even they might not have envisioned the valley in its present incarnation. From a tiny outpost, the Vail Valley has grown to encompass multiple municipalities and an hour’s drive from end to end. It is a transcendent place to live, to do business, to recreate, to raise a family, to visit.
But, if you think that the valley is too crowded now, then take a gander at the population projections: The populace may double in your lifetime. As we scramble to meet this overwhelming demand, perhaps we are not dreaming big enough. Vail has the opportunity to become the world’s first true mountain metropolis.
Nothing stays the same. We will never recapture the freewheeling times of the ’60s and ’70s. Looking backward evokes beautiful feelings of nostalgia, and that is a critical endeavor. But it is no way to maximize the present, and it may actively hinder the development of an ideal future. The history of this place is part of its identity and should never be lost. It should inform how we choose to move forward, but it should not overly circumscribe our vision for the next 50 or 100 years.
Our landscape is a gift. While we need to house the influx of valley immigrants, we absolutely cannot do so at the expense of the geography that makes our community unique. This does not mean a moratorium on development; it means the striking of an ideal balance between buildings and open space; between recreation and wildlife; between the diametric opposites that seem irreconcilable.
Efficiency is a key virtue. With limited land to offer, we must get creative. Each town along the corridor has created its own quasi-urban core. Clustering of development on the valley floor is the only way that we will be able to create the equilibrium that we so desperately need and desire. It is inevitable that the valley will grow. It should not grow out and, not being mole-people, it should not grow down. The only responsible, thoughtful way to build when we run out of developable land is up.
Tall buildings are not the enemy. Adding three or four or seven floors to the height restrictions in our towns/unincorporated areas will not destroy their essential character. Mountain-appropriate skyscrapers, however, will utilize economies of scale to ensure efficient utilization of resources. And they will prevent us from having to raze the critical recreational spaces, wildlife habitats, view sheds and historical sites that drew us all here in the first place, whether it was 100 years ago or just a few days.
We should not go overboard. There is an outer limit to how far we could or should push this model. Manhattan was once a bucolic, remote island. I am not suggesting that we follow its path of development. But, rather than pretending that we are simply a ski town, we should capture the possibilities of our current situation. We are neither Telluride nor Denver; neither Jackson Hole, Wyoming, nor San Francisco.
We are no longer a sleepy village. We have the infrastructure potential, both physical and intellectual, that makes us as well-positioned as any to craft the perfect blend of East Bumble and Metropolis. That is the valley that I want to help build.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Alpenglow Law LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.alpenglowlaw.com.