Vail Daily column: Vail should pursue quality over quantity
August 28, 2015
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.
Perhaps Vail has reached a tipping point or turned a corner where opportunities to change its recession based economic policies are now opening. The Vail Homeowners Association has advocated for a "quality over quantity" approach that will continue to promote Vail but damp down the congestive effects of doing so. Much remains to be done in this regard.
The same measured approach should also be applied to the more complex challenge of cleaning up Gore Creek, the symbol of the community's economic and environmental sustainability. The health of Gore Creek and its tributaries is the canary in the coal mine for Vail's stewardship of the community's highly valued and commercially important natural setting.
The town has now released its draft cleanup plan; it comes with an estimated $7 million price tag and an annual maintenance cost of just over a quarter of a million dollars. Importantly, there are no specific proposals for who is to pay for proposed containment and restoration projects. Certain aspects of the town's proposed plan could set off intense debates over streamside property rights and, if litigation ensues, legal costs would quickly escalate, a factor that has not been included in the project budget.
Activists are advocating that new regulations be adopted for all watercourses in the Gore Creek drainage, even though only selected stretches of the stream have been determined to be impaired. Water experts have yet to complete the necessary inventory and testing of surface runoff and groundwater flows to more precisely determine the source and location of pollutants, which may require adjustments when the results are in. But it is important to get this critical work underway. Gore Creek was initially declared impaired in 2012. More time should not be wasted. To minimize cost and conflict, the plan should be implemented in a way that first solves the immediate problem areas. Then, if the problem is not stabilized, or worsens, then it should be applied to the entirety of the Gore Creek drainage.
Predictions of worker housing shortages are again being heard. But Vail's ability to make the necessary investments is being outrun by the availability of land within the town's boundaries and the escalating costs of construction. Vail has traditionally been cool to the notion of funding worker housing outside of the city limits; but is it time to recognize that there is no longer sufficient land to attain its goal of providing 30 percent of workforce housing in town? Avon still has large tracts of vacant land that are programmed for intensive development.
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Recent discussions between Avon and Vail officials illustrate that the recession may have brought about a significant shift in public sentiment that now recognizes the growing interdependence of all communities located along Eagle County's I-70 corridor. The cost of developing in Avon would be much less than in Vail. Is it time to explore joint development ventures?
In addition to worker housing there is also a dearth of retirement housing. At the recent joint meeting between the town councils of Vail and Avon, an Avon councilwoman inquired what Vail's policy was on "aging in place." There is none. Where is the retirement housing to be for workers who have spent years working in the community? These are issues that should be on the table now.
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