Vail Daily column: Vail is at a tipping point
Editor’s note: The following is excerpted 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
For most of its first 50 years, Vail has been a “transformational” community — one that was principally concerned with the quality of life and well-being of its residents; a community that rested on personal relationships and shared goals. But questions now are being raised whether Vail has shifted to a “transactional” community where pocketbook concerns predominate and the focus is on the efficiency of impersonal, monetized, person-to-person service transactions. In such a community there is less concern for the quality of life in the push to increase the bottom line or increase sales tax receipts.
A concomitant issue that has yet to be addressed is the increasing age of the community. Without any fanfare, Vail has become somewhat of a “retirement community” as its workforce ages out and many residents move into their golden years. This “aging” creates its own set of unique problems, ones that the community has not yet had to face due to the fact that, at 50, Vail is still a relatively young city. The Vail Valley Medical Center and others are providing some valuable guidance on aging at altitude but more geriatric services are needed, particularly in the area of housing.
To build community diversity, the town of Vail has historically focused its housing policies on providing “workforce housing.” It has yet to factor into its housing policies the fact that many of its workers are retiring and many year-round and part-time residents will be in need of “elder” care, including housing. For many, “aging in place,” where they remain a valued and engaged part of the community, as opposed to being isolated or relegated to some specialized care facility, is most desirable. This is not an issue that should be shunted off to the doorstep of Eagle County’s overstressed Department of Social Services. The Vail Homeowners Association believes that having an ethical community-based housing policy should be a town responsibility.
Another important issue is whether there is a need for a stronger sense of community. The Vail Homeowners Association believes that everyone in Vail, including second-home owners, should have notice and opportunity to engage in the setting of Vail policies and the decisions of Vail’s government. There should be complete transparency in Vail’s governmental processes. Decisions should be based on consensus, not imposed as a matter of right or power, such as has happened recently, resulting in costly litigation. When decisions are not transparent and appear as edicts and the “us against them” mentality takes hold in litigation, sense of community and the idea that we should all be working toward a common goal is undermined.
Expanding conflicts with property owners over congestion, environmental policy and property rights is a sign that something beyond the lawsuits may be wrong. These subjects seem to be causing tempers to flare and lawsuits to fly between property owners and the town of Vail, and the lawsuits are causing an adversarial gap between property owners and our local government. Each of these conflicts affect the young and seniors alike.
Vail now appears to be at or near a tipping point. We have weathered the Great Recession and developers are putting real estate promotions and construction back into hyperdrive. The Vail Homeowners Association believes it is time to consider, “What kind of community do we want for Vail?” VHA urges those affected by these issues to speak up, especially in the upcoming Town Council election. Discuss these issues with your friends and neighbors, and ask those running for office how they would address them.