Ford: Yes to affordable housing but no to Booth Heights
My objections to the Booth Heights affordable housing project have absolutely nothing to do with affordable housing. I am Rob Ford, often referred to as the housing mayor, and I spent four years in town hall working for affordable housing. I am against this project because it is a lousy project that is being unethically jammed through the system under the disguise of affordable housing.
The residents of Vail must stand up for quality, for working with the citizens of Vail, and for doing our best to protect threatened wildlife. The processes to approve this project must adhere to the highest standards of fairness and openness for all. These were our standards when I was in office. I am appalled to see every one of these ideals violated with this Booth Heights project.
Affordable housing is just as important today as it was when I was in office. However, the problem of retaining an excellent workforce is far more complicated today than 20 years ago. Affordable housing alone will not solve the problem. Yes, it is a step in the process. But to violate all the standards of integrity that this council has done to ram this project through is insulting. Those who voted this project through on both the PEC and the Vail Town Council should be ashamed.
Out of nowhere, this parcel was discovered to be a buildable parcel. It was rushed through a rezoning before anyone knew what was going on. Those that talked about conservation easements were pushed aside. There are members of today’s council that feel affordable housing is the panacea for everything. They will do anything to get it built. They have lost their balance and in their drive, they have lost total sight of any integrity and quality for which Vail used to stand. Here’s how things have gone awry.
The drive to build as much housing as possible has been the overriding theme throughout the planning process. Short shrift was given to blending with the neighborhood. The concerns of the neighbors were swept aside. There was no effort to adapt the project to the neighborhood. Housing at any cost. Parking requirements do not seem adequate. No matter. Housing at any cost.
The bighorn sheep have been here forever. It is because of their presence that East Vail has been called bighorn right up to today. The wildlife report drafted for the developer was blindly accepted by town hall. When concerned citizens fought to get nonbiased reports conducted by certified wildlife biologists, who were contracted by the town, the conclusions were the total opposite. The biologists said the best option was to build somewhere else. How did Vail Resorts and the developer respond? They said they would prohibit owners and renters from having dogs. Excuse me. You have to be kidding me. This is a total crock. It is unenforceable and will not save the sheep. Not to be deterred, Triumph and Vail Resorts pressed on.
This project was put before the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission. It was unbelievably approved by a 4-3 vote. A Vail Resorts employee on the commission was allowed to vote for the project. Now, this is a new low in the ethical standards I have referred to above. The Vail Resorts employee would not recuse himself from the vote and was the deciding vote to push the project through. Incredible.
The town council
Despite all the controversy mentioned above, a majority of the town council members voted down a request for the approval of this project to be brought before them. Despite the community’s strong concerns, the council was fine with letting the tainted approval of this project be decided by the unelected bureaucrats that sit on the PEC. Four members of the town council, including the mayor, were unwilling to let their concerned constituents present their concerns to them. I am sorry — this is totally unacceptable for an elected body. A new low in responsibility.
So where does that leave us now? The community would not stand for this. A record-breaking number of citizen appeals were filed to force the PEC decision up to the council. The hearing will be October 15 before the council.
I want to reiterate I am not against affordable housing. This site may end up being perfect for some housing. However, we must stand up for the high standards that Vail used to uphold. We must make sure the sheep are protected. We must stand up for an untainted process. If the Vail Resorts employee had recused himself, the project would not have passed.And finally, we must stand up for listening to our constituents.
Rob Ford served on the Vail Town Council from 1996-1999 and was the town’s mayor from 1998-1999.