Vail Daily column: What is government’s role in Vail’s change?
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
With a great mountain, beautiful environment and outstanding cultural opportunities, growth and change for Vail are inevitable. It is folly to try to bring change to a halt or try to reverse course, but the inevitability of change raises the question — what should be the role of government in dealing with that change?
Some advocate that free enterprise should be allowed to run its natural course believing that supply and demand will dictate the best outcome and government intervention could stifle that. Others urge government intervention to control economic growth since the forces of supply and demand would do little to, for example, protect Gore Creek. The Vail Homeowners Association believes that the most desirable course is a prudent balancing of the best of both positions while avoiding the pitfalls of both. Congestion, environmental issues, property rights disputes, hyperdrive promotions and construction are all real challenges propelled primarily by economics. The community can, however, within certain limits, guide its economic development through policy setting choices made by its leaders and government officials. That requires a government that is attentive, responsive and transparent. To help achieve the best outcomes, it is important to shine the light on events and their consequences so that an informed community can make the best decisions. That is one of VHA’s most important roles. In that context, we “shine the light” on a few of the economic challenges facing our community.
Few issues have been as persistent or troubling as the availability of public parking. Vail’s forefathers saw this as a major factor in the economic development of the community and took big risks, incurring large debt to build the Village and Lionshead parking structures. For a while, their foresight solved the problem, but in recent years Vail’s successes have once again pushed the availability of public parking back into a potential deterrent to continued success. Several solutions have been bandied about ranging from unlimited spill-over frontage roads parking to the development of down-valley parking on sites west of Dowd Junction. The most obvious choice, the current municipal site in the heart of the village, is very costly. But this is an issue that cries out for effective leadership. The town recently retired the debt on the present structures and should be in a position to tackle this problem. It is only a matter of time before the present policy of frontage roads parking results in a significant injury. That would not bode well for Vail’s economic prosperity.
At the beginning of the recession, the town of Vail set in motion an economic development strategy that used special events to attract day visitors and intensified its international marketing to draw in destination guests. The recession made it possible to bring the “chamber of commerce” function into the Town Hall, consolidating control over government-financed promotional spending. The much sought after goal of stimulating “lively street life” has materialized, perhaps overly so. Newly constructed high-end hotel rooms were promoted to the international destination market. The effort succeeded to the degree that hotels are now having periods of full occupancy in both summer and winter. But it may now be time to reassess if these policies are exacting too high a cost on the community’s quality of life; whether there is too much emphasis on making profits rather than improving mutual wellbeing.
Some now question whether it is the function of government to take such an expansive control of the business community. Once a government economic development initiative is set in motion, it is difficult to change course as new realities evolve.