Ford: Booth Heights is about Vail’s quality
The Booth Heights debate has nothing to do with workforce housing.
Vail needed workforce housing 30 years ago when I was mayor. I spent four long years in town hall working on housing options. Vail needs workforce housing today. And guess what? Vail will most likely need more workforce housing 30 years in the future.
Booth Heights is not a location appropriate for workforce housing. The fact that Vail has been pondering workforce housing on this site for the past two-plus years is a strong testament to how far Vail leadership has strayed from the founders’ original goals of quality, density control, and excellent management of wildlife and the great outdoors of the White River National Forest.
These simple principles with lots of hard work built Vail into the most popular and successful resort in North America As Vail leadership forgot about these goals and adopted the “business at any cost” mindset, Vail’s standing as a premier resort went straight down. Now Vail is not even listed in the top 10 ski resorts in North America. Good job! Think maybe it is time for a reset.
The Booth Heights land parcel is pristine and has been for Vail’s entire lifetime. It is home to a beautiful, strong herd of bighorn sheep that have been here since before Vail was founded. To even consider killing this herd of sheep for workforce housing and ruining this pristine ground is outrageous The town’s founders would be absolutely appalled. Vail’s leadership should be ashamed that this project got as far as it did. How could you become so blinded as to get us into this mess? This ground should have been placed in open lands protection since day one.
When the present ownership of Vail Resorts took over and adopted the Epic Pass, Vail leadership was all too eager to step on the gas pedal of development. More people. More money.
Vail Resorts monetized, for their benefit, the quality that the town’s founders had worked so hard to build. Today, the town, the mountain is totally overrun with people. Quality is gone and has been for some time. This past season, Vail Resorts exported to their other resorts their style of bringing in massive amounts of visitors and providing terrible services and quality. Their Northwest resorts did their best to call Vail Resorts out on this. They came up with petitions. They lobbied the Forest Service. They got the photos of huge lift lines to the media. The stock price got hit. You have to fight for quality. Where was Vail in all of this? Not a word from our leadership. Absolutely pathetic.
I think it is time to get back to our roots of quality first. First step: Condemn the Booth Heights parcel. No negotiations. No discussions. Just get it done. All the town has done over these two years is increase the condemnation costs by adding zoning. Just get it done and start to look elsewhere for more appropriate housing sites.
Step two: Force Vail Resorts to work with the town on limiting the number of skiers on Vail mountain to get some quality back into the experience. They will not do this willingly. So outlaw parking on the frontage road. No discussions. Just do it. They will come to the table when forced to.
Bob McLauren, our town manager years ago, used to say municipal politics is a contact sport. It is far past the time for our Town Council to suit up for the game and to start leading the charge back to quality. Stand up for our founding principles starting with quality. Get it done. It will be a long, hard-fought battle to get back into the top rankings of ski resorts but please start here and now.
Rob Ford served on the Vail Town Council from 1996-1999 and was the town’s mayor from 1998-1999.