Vail Daily column: Building picks up steam
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association Newsletter. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
Vail sets its economic development policies through its master planning, zoning and regulatory codes. The sheer scale of the Vail Renaissance shows how effective the loosening of development regulations can be toward unleashing pent up economic forces. Prior to deregulation, property values had steadily climbed as tight limits were placed upon the supply of new construction — both residential and commercial. Most would agree that the changes have brought greater vitality and attractive buildings, but at a price of overcrowding and putting stress on the community’s enjoyment of its highly valued residential lifestyle.
New construction is occurring, but below the pre-recession pace. The town continues to pursue high-density recreational-oriented residential projects; it has also moved to diversify the economy by expanding opportunities for medical tourism. Construction on the expansion of the Vail Valley Medical Center has begun.
A concept redevelopment plan has been submitted for the 1970s Evergreen condo hotel complex. The Evergreen developer hopes to become an integral part of the medical center’s operation by providing supporting residential and public parking opportunities.
Once again momentum is building for a cultural and event center to house a variety of potential uses. Recently the town’s Special Event Commission recommended that the Town Council move forward with planning for such a center. The project would consist of a makeover of the Dobson Arena to handle crowds of up to 3,500 for events and/or a new culture center on the charter bus/RV parking lot located at the east side of the Lionshead parking structure. The recommendation did not address the provision of parking, which will be a significant issue in any such development. Other alternative sites and repurposing of existing facilities throughout the community are also proposed. It remains to be seen where this will go. Finding funding will be a major factor in any such proposal.
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These projects will likely further compound overcrowding, parking and public safety issues. In the rush to redevelop these and other sites, VHA urges that public safety not be minimalized but given equal consideration in the planning processes.
In response to some critics’ assertions that Vail’s quality of life is suffering from the effects of overcrowding and urbanization, the town has taken a more aggressive stance on the greening of economic development policies. Vail’s green economic policies have to date been conventional and largely symbolic. Plastic bags have been banned, recycling mandated and energy saving practices applied to government installations. The implementation of these policies has come in rapid succession and has not been without controversy, added cost or inconvenience to property owners and residents when other less disruptive options were available. Recently, public safety was put at higher risk, particularly for Vail’s access-impaired and aging populations when a ban on heated walkways was sought by carbon footprint activists. The widespread use of snow melted walkways has significantly reduced the costly settlements the town paid out for slip and fall hazards, once common throughout Vail’s pedestrian friendly town center. Snowmelt needs to be further expanded in high traffic pedestrian areas when public safety is a concern. Adopting standards requiring efficient heat sources as aging heating systems are replaced could well be the trade-off to reduce the carbon footprint long-term rather than requiring changes overnight as some activists advocate.
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