Letter: Booth Heights isn’t about affordable housing | VailDaily.com

Letter: Booth Heights isn’t about affordable housing

The following two paragraphs are excerpts from a Forbes article dated Nov. 30 2016

“But Vail still faces challenges, especially with labor. Less than 20% of the company’s 30,000 employees work full-time, and some, including ski instructors, are fed up with watching lift ticket and lesson prices rise while their wages barely budge. The ski school is a particularly lucrative business for Vail, with the cost of an all-day private lesson exceeding $900 when ski instructors frequently earn less than $20 an hour.”

“These are megacorporations making billions off of skiing, but they continue to treat the workers like it’s the 1960s and they ought to pay to do this wonderful job,” says Al Kogler, organizer with the CWA local in Denver, which hasn’t decided whether to attempt another election. (Rob) Katz would prefer to negotiate directly with employees instead of through a union, but he acknowledges Vail will have to increase wages to keep attracting employees to its high-cost locations.”

Remember, those employee numbers are from 2016. 

It appears there are two underlying issues to housing and profit: Livable wages and part-time seasonal employment.

Should local citizens carry the burden of seasonal part-time employee housing when livable wages and full-time employment will not be provided by the employer? Presumably Vail Resorts, who financially benefits from the seasonal part-time employee, would provide the housing. Seasonal employees are paid unlivable wages.

VR has limited or no unemployment taxes, liabilities, etc. It is a major part of VR’s business plan for profitability. VR has the ability to solve its employee housing issue on it’s Ever Vail property in West Lionshead. Ever Vail is a proposed mountain access portal and would continue the cycle of more seasonal employees and inadequate housing. 

Enter the Booth Heights development. It has its own mystery and controversy. Virtually everyone I have spoken to believed this property was already designated as open space. The assessor’s office previously had the property belonging to CDOT, which is not required to pay property tax. In reality, VR owns the property. Subsequently VR has no delinquent tax liability burden for decades.

Next is a cloud of controversy on the transparency of the rezoning approval process in 2017. So VR has this property, no delinquent property tax liability, it’s rezoned and VR intends to sell it for market value. Then lease most of the units from the developer and rent them to employees — mostly seasonal, part-time, underpaid employees. This is not about affordable housing. It is a means to a more profitable end for VR.

Now what about our iconic bighorn sheep — the state animal. Should they carry the burden of VR seasonal part-time employee housing? They have inhabited that area as winter grazing for upward of 1,000 years. Three respected U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Department of Wildlife biologists, who have nothing to gain, all recommend not doing the development. Mitigation never works. Extinction. This is not about NIMBY, this is the bighorns’ front yard and garden. Think about it.

Gary L. Eno

Vail