Letter: Yes, this is our small-town life …
In his Friday column, Chris Romer, the CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, makes some valid points, but grossly overstates his case against citizens who are concerned about threats to our “small-town life.” It’s a common complaint voiced by developers: “If you object to my building project you must be an old fogy, a Luddite, opposed to all progress.”
Mr. Romer argues that Vail has grown into a great place to live and visit despite the objections of “nostalgia among those who missed small-town life.” On the contrary, Vail has grown into the great place to live and visit because of the debate and restraint forced by concerned citizens like defending Vail’s remaining “green belt” around the town, and Vail rejecting (Aspen’s) traffic lights, promoting roundabouts that avoid traffic jams.
Mr. Romer and the town should welcome and respect the views of concerned citizens, not deplore them. Citizens chose to live here, they pay taxes here, and they are willing to suffer waiting three hours in overcrowded town meeting rooms for an opportunity to voice their concerns in their allocated 180 seconds … not for gain.
Mr.Romer argues “what is ‘killing’ our small-town atmosphere is the inability to retain those who want to stay.” He is concerned that the town is emptying out. Really? Are we becoming a ghost town? That’s disproved by population counts, tax revenues, highway traffic, and Frontage Road parking on many a summer’s or winter’s day.
Vail has been a huge success as Mr.Romer rightly chronicles. Vail uniquely breaks the trade-off between large city sophistication and small-town charm and safety. We have balanced the best of both worlds. Citizens who contest and help channel development should be respected and valued for their contribution, not be deplored as blind opponents to all progress.
The Booth Heights project to build dense, low-end housing, displacing Vail’s bighorn sheep herd on their vital winter grazing parcel exemplifies issues that are worth a debate. The town appears to agonize over a false choice: Does Vail want more employee housing or does Vail want to keep its indigenous bighorn sheep herd?
It’s a false choice! We can have both!
The Vail Valley has a number of alternative sites that could accommodate additional employee housing without bulldozing untouched green land and displacing the bighorn sheep. The town has not demonstrated that the only place remaining for new employee housing is on Booth Heights by the east entrance to Vail.
The sheep are an asset to Vail. They confirm the town’s professed goal on ecosystem health: “Ensure that the natural environment, specifically air, water quantity and quality, land use and habitat are maintained to current or improved levels of biological health.” Vail should be supporting its precious bighorn sheep herd, not driving it out of its critical winter feeding ground here.
Competitive resorts in Europe, like Lech, Austria, and Val d’Isère, France, feed their local deer in winter because they recognize that the animals’ presence speaks of “maintaining and improving levels of biological health.” That appeals to visitors, as employee housing and paved parking does not.
Our town has been proud of our slogan: “Vail. There’s no comparison.” Our bighorn sheep support that. Low-end housing and parking, not so much.