Vail Daily letter: My take on Eagle-Vail elections
February 7, 2016
Let me start by saying that I am an unabashed fan of Eagle-Vail. It is the only neighborhood my wife and I have lived in since moving here in 1998. Our kids have grown up here. From 2006-2012 my company had its office in the Eagle-Vail commercial district and I am pleased that after three-plus years away we are moving the office back to the Eagle-Vail commercial district in the next few weeks.
I have been engaged in a variety of governance matters in our community since 2008 and so have seen a good deal of change over that seven-plus-year time span.
Beginning with the Eagle-Vail Property Owners' Association elections (a mail-in ballot taking place now), and followed by an Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District election in May, owners and residents of the community will have a chance to elect six out of the 10 seats on the two boards — three seats on each board.
These two election cycles will shape Eagle-Vail governance for several years into the future. Owners and residents should therefore be engaged and participate.
On one side of the fence is a view that so much is "wrong" with governance and management in Eagle-Vail that wholesale change is required. It is a view promulgated largely by the same neighbors that organized the successful defeat of the recent 5A ballot question.
In my opinion this view is short-sighted — it misses everything that is, and has been, "right" with Eagle-Vail for the past several years.
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By combining the two boards in 2009 — they meet together, consider the business of the community as a single group, but retain separate voting rights on matters that strictly pertain to each — the interests of property owners are taken into account as the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District decides how to improve and maintain the amenities and assets that help to underpin property values.
The combined group also created the position of community manager (currently occupied by Jeff Layman) and began to share the costs of this infrastructure. It seemed logical at the time, and still seems so today to me, that a community containing assets with an aggregate actual value of $850 million-plus (taken from the Eagle County Assessor's abstract from May 2015) should not have its interests represented solely by a series of volunteers. Eagle-Vail is virtually its own little town with interests that reflect its scope and size — it deserves a commensurate level of dedicated management.
The community manager role has, among numerous other things, given Eagle-Vail a "seat at the table" for local and regional governance issues which it did not have before. This representation at the county level has facilitated the focus by the county on a master redevelopment plan for the Eagle-Vail commercial district, and the awarding of grants/funding to the community for recreational improvements to point out just a pair of benefits.
The improvements to the golf course have been a great success — combined with the marketing efforts of the golf staff, led by pro Ben Welsh, revenues at the golf club have risen steadily and on an operating basis golf is in the black. The swim club has also been very well received within and without the community, though by its nature it is likely to always be an amenity to the community in the sense that it does not generate substantial revenues in the way that golf does.
It is also worth noting that the boards have successfully guided the community's finances through the recent economic downturn — notwithstanding the decrease in revenues resulting from the decline in property values during the recession, the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District fund balance at the end of 2015 stood at just under $3 million as compared to the $1 million level at the end of 2007.
An abbreviated list of what else has been accomplished by the boards acting jointly and the management staff also includes:
• Flood mitigation: Work with FEMA to ensure that flood mapping of the community is accurate and limit the number of property owners required to insure against a flood,
• Following the legal environment in Colorado as it pertains to property/homeowner associations and bring Eagle-Vail into compliance with as much of the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act as possible/relevant,
• Coordinate the development of a parks master plan and begin to make improvements to community parks,
• Work with the U.S. Forest Service on the maintenance and extension of the Eagle-Vail trail system,
• Coordinate with the Eagle River Fire Protection District on wildfire mitigation efforts,
• Upgrade entry monuments and wayfinding signage within the community,
• Work with community members to address traffic control/speeding issues within the neighborhood,
• Coordinate the updating of the Planned Unit Development document that governs land uses within the community in order to give as many properties as possible the ability to add square footage.
Perhaps the above offers some balance to the charged rhetoric of the moment. Before you cast a vote in either of the upcoming Eagle-Vail elections, make sure to do your own due diligence on the candidates and their vision — given all the progress that has been made over the past seven-plus years, Eagle-Vail deserves leadership that keeps it a forward-thinking community.
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