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When majority’s locked out

Jim Lamont

Following is an excerpt of a report by Jim Lamont, executive director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, assessing Vail’s economic and community development. We will run parts of the report each day in this space until completed. This is part 4.”Sense of Community” a Market Trend: Assimilation (inclusion) of part-time residents into the life and affairs of the community is becoming an important motivational factor in the purchase of second home residential real estate. The “community assimilation” factor was identified as a consumer-buying trend through marketing studies conducted by developers planning new “recreational lifestyle” communities in the region. The second-home buyer is concerned about two factors of property owner participation: the ease of social interaction and accountability of governance. Ease of social interaction, creating a sense of belonging, is a primary prerequisite for guests, as well. It is an important marketing strategy for any resort of quality. Community assimilation is one of the most vexing issues for resort communities that are governed by municipal governments. Municipal governments require only residency (30 days) as a prerequisite to enfranchised (voting) political participation. Municipalities can have no property ownership requirements to become a voter. Private resort communities, on the other hand, have only property ownership, but no residency requirement. The heart of the governance issue is the right to vote on policies governing the protection of property rights, rates of taxation and the quality of public services. More than 70 percent of Vail property owners are precluded from enfranchised political participation on electoral issues that affect these matters. Defining Community as Exclusionary: A resort community, which discounts community assimilation by excluding the political participation of a majority of its businesses, employees and property-owning citizens builds a false economy because those who are most sensitive to market conditions are precluded from participation. The lack of participation reduces the potential of market development and expansion because it ignores market trends and demands, such as the consumers desire to participate in its governance and sense of community. When a majority of these classes of citizens are not enfranchised to participate in electing the representatives who set governmental policies, then the local government represents a narrow cast (stratification) of local citizens who set policies to protect their own selfish or vested interests. Even many enfranchised Vail residents believe that local government represents only influential vested interests. It is a common perception, that political patronage and protectionism, resulting from the narrowness of self-interest in local government, has channeled change to the benefit of vested interests rather than to the community-at-large. Economic innovation and its resulting benefits to residents and consumers would be enhanced through the greatest possible participation in the political process. Social Activism and Governmental Intrusion in the Market Place: The narrowness of the community’s political participation causes the local economy and government to be overly vulnerable to the excesses of local social activism and political patronage. Efforts by affordable housing activists dislocated the rental housing market by forcing, in the face of a glutted market, a quantum increase in the inventory of government subsidized rental housing. The net effect of the market adjustment, currently in progress, may well be to traumatize Vail’s public finances for the foreseeable future, as well as reduce the viability and availability of rent affordable units throughout the Vail Valley. Re-defining Community as Inclusionary: A resort community’s “cohesiveness,” or “social harmony” is a measure of the relative ease with which social and economic interaction occurs. A comprehensive study, recently published, documents the near identical agreement on lifestyle issues between second homeowners and local residents. The composition of Vail’s second homeownership is responsive to global market conditions because it is both national and hemispheric. Should the political participation of second homeowners become equal with their economic influence, the community’s sensitivity to market conditions should, as well, become responsive to global conditions. The more responsive it is to changing market conditions, the less likely it is to again fall victim to its competition because of protectionism and political patronage. Vail, Colorado


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