Vail Daily column: Time to re-examine housing solutions
February 21, 2016
First of all, how about those Broncos! Congrats. What a way to retire, Peyton Manning. He can go out on top — just like John Elway, with two Super Bowl victories.
Secondly, affordable housing, low-income housing, rental housing — however you define the lack of available housing for employees and professionals, this issue has been in the Vail Valley since I arrived in Vail in 1974 and before that. The desire of employees to live in the community they work in is normal. Other locations have the same problem. For example, Boulder is losing 1,000 units of market affordable for-sale and rental housing every year and adding back about 125 units of permanently affordable housing. Same problem is occurring in Denver and the suburbs. Aspen partially solved the affordable housing issue 30 years ago with a 150-unit complex in town. Aspen's work force is expanding to Basalt, El Jebel and even Carbondale.
Vail has started their most recent housing project at Chamonix in West Vail. It will provide a still undecided mix of affordable housing. The project is designed to attract middle income and low-income people (teachers, electricians, plumbers, firefighters, police officers, retailers and restaurant staff).
Continue Gaining Housing
The question really is, what can be done in the future to continue gaining more affordable housing? There are a few ideas. The first possibility is the Donovan Park Phase 2. The town of Vail owns the land and it would seem that would be a logical location for additional affordable housing. The idea has surfaced before and was met with resistance from the surrounding neighborhood. Isn't it time to re-examine this location in a similar manner that the Chamonix property is being pursued. Another possibility is the annexation of additional land in the town of Vail. That would be a possibility via a land swap with the Forest Service. A land swap is being proposed down in Minturn concerning the Meadow Mountain open space and the Battle Mountain project. There have been land swaps before and the process is lengthy and time consuming. It might be a process to pursue so that it could come to actuality in, say, 20 years.
Another factor that would assist the ability of employees and professionals to continue to work in Vail is an examination of transportation. If additional affordable housing was created west of Dowd Junction, all the way down to Gypsum, then that could initiate collaboration between Vail, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum and Eagle County to try to upgrade the transportation system. Is the ECO Transit service sufficient to handle more and more riders? In the next five, 15, 30 years there will be the need for more affordable, low-income and rental housing. That will generate the need to examine all the possibilities to accomplish this tough problem. It will involve interaction between multiple governments, developers, transportation planners and private business working together to continue working on this difficult, long-standing problem.
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Stay involved and stay informed. If you are not already receiving the Vail Chamber weekly newsletter, then email us at vailchamber.org to start receiving it. If you are interested in finding out about the Vail Chamber & Business Association and what we have to offer to businesses in and do business in town then call 970-476-0075 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Based in Vail Village, our office is located on the top level of the Vail Transportation Center, so stop by and say "hello."
Michael Staughton is the owner of Slope Enterprises, which operates the restaurants Los Amigos and Russell's, both located in Vail Village. He is a board member for the Vail Chamber & Business Association.
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