Vail Daily editorial: Let’s get started
July 12, 2016
If there's one thing local governments are good at, it's topic-flogging — talking endlessly about and around an issue until, eventually, something gets done. Or not.
Numerous elected officials from up and down the valley seem on the brink of actually doing something about our evergreen housing crunch. The towns of Vail and Avon are talking to each other about working together, and Eagle County is likely to ask voters this fall for a 0.3 percent sales tax to create a housing fund.
All of that is well and good — and even a project on a fast track will take at least a couple of years to build. Still, all the talk is starting to feel a bit like topic-floggery.
Well, here's an idea that may put some motion behind all this talk.
While the town of Vail has millions in the bank, the town doesn't have much vacant land. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service offices at Dowd Junction could be bought for the right price. And, unlike most Forest Service parcels, this would be a straight-up real estate deal, with no need for time-consuming exchanges or environmental assessments.
It's time for the town to start negotiating with Forest Service officials to buy that parcel, then start on a parallel track to get other local governments and Vail Resorts involved in planning — and paying for — its future uses.
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With a bold move, Vail could test the rest of the valley's true commitment to building more housing.
Is Vail Resorts really serious about its $30 million commitment to housing? A piece of land handy to a pair of flagship resorts that could accommodate seasonal housing would be worth writing a seven-figure check or two.
If Eagle County wants to sell voters on the merits of a permanent housing fund, the draft of a plan for using that money — along with an idea for consolidating the Forest Service's Eagle and Minturn offices — might make a compelling pitch.
Minturn would have to be involved, of course — Dowd Junction is the town's front door, although not within the town's boundaries. Avon would also need to be part of a consortium.
There are a lot of moving parts to any possible deal, and that takes time. But one sure way to kick-start the process is for one party to deal directly with another. The local party in this case should be Vail, to bring tangible action to all the current talk.
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