Danson: Please attend the East Vail rezoning hearing on Sept. 11 (column)
September 2, 2017
Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.
I am writing to urge all of my neighbors to attend the meeting of the Vail Planning and Zoning Commission at 1 p.m. Sept. 11, in the Town of Vail Municipal Building. I believe that the rezoning being requested by Vail Resorts should be opposed for the following reasons.
• First, rezoning is the most resident-unfriendly thing that can be done by a town authority. The neighborhood stretching from Bald Mountain Road through East Vail has been residential for the past 50 years. We need to turn out on Monday to remind the Vail Planning and Zoning Commission that we expect it to preserve the character of our neighborhood. We relied on the current zoning when we bought our homes, and that reliance should be respected.
• Second, the property is really unsuitable for development. If you wonder why there has been no attempt to rezone or even to develop this property pursuant to its existing zoning during the past 50 years, then it may well be because the property is prone to rockfall, mudslides and avalanches.
• Third, I am concerned about the potential density of any development that may occur if the rezoning is approved. The way the process works is that Vail Resorts does not have to tell the town what its plans are before the property is rezoned. The Planning and Zoning Commission will only be asked to rezone, and after rezoning, Vail Resorts has explained that it will seek out a developer and submit plans to the town.
Even though we do not know what those plans will propose in terms of density, building height, parking and the like, it would be naive to think that Vail Resorts would not ask the town for the maximum density that its architects and land-use planners think the 5.4 acres can sustain. After all, Vail Resorts is a public company, and its first obligation is to maximize shareholder value. In other words, if the rezoning is granted, then the train will have left the station and that is why I'm recommending that the rezoning be opposed on Monday.
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And speaking of density, while it is true that the property has a bus stop right in front of it, during the ski season, the East Vail bus route is already overburdened, and extra buses must regularly be provided during busy hours. Perhaps the bus system could respond to a significant increase in usage, with considerable additional expense to the town for buses and drivers, but the extra traffic on the frontage road would be a problem and safety issue for all of us, especially Vail Mountain School parents dropping off and picking up children.
Also, in the spring, summer and fall, the hiker traffic to Booth Falls trailhead, and traffic associated with soccer, lacrosse and other VMS events, is already a big problem, forcing parking on the frontage road. I believe that we would be courting accidents and endangering the lives of VMS school children if rezoning for employee housing were to be granted.
And before anyone lobs the Not In My Backyard bomb at me, I fully understand that employee housing is an issue that we all must work on to resolve, but the proposed site is not a good resolution to the problem. An employee-specific complex of whatever density runs contrary to the integrated approach that the town now favors. Such a complex would amount to another employee-only "ghetto" that has the potential for noise, traffic and "youthful activity" at all hours in what is now a school zone and tranquil neighborhood. The town should pursue employee and affordable housing as part of redevelopment within Vail and, more broadly, downvalley.
Last, but certainly not least, please go take a look at the property that Vail Resorts wants to rezone. It is an incredibly beautiful and pristine site that is the first thing that the visitor to Vail sees as he or she drives into the valley from the east. It is also important wildlife habitat — bighorn sheep in particular.
The site should be preserved in perpetuity, not developed. Please join me on Sept. 11 to oppose the rezoning request.
Alan Danson is a Vail resident.