Rock: We need collaboration, not condemnation
As a community, we must be able to rely on development approvals from the Vail Town Council as the final word — especially affordable housing. Vail Resorts partnered in good faith with the town for years, resulting in a 2019 approval of affordable housing in East Vail. We then collaborated with the town for a year to defend and win a lawsuit in state court that challenged the project. All involved in that partnership were incredibly proud of the example it set for public/private collaboration to enable desperately needed affordable housing.
Since then, despite commentary to the contrary, we have had dozens of discussions with the town; however, the conversations the town wants to have now are only focused on eliminating the approved affordable housing project in East Vail. We need to be talking about building incremental affordable housing for our community as quickly as possible, not abandoning an approved project.
We believe it’s a dangerous precedent for a town to approve a plan for affordable housing and then turn around and try to block that very same project. We also wholeheartedly disagree with the town of Vail, or any town, using the legal process of eminent domain to seize private land that was recently approved for development of affordable housing. We have not seen this Town Council move to condemn any other private land in the sheep’s winter range being newly developed.
Given the severity of the town’s housing shortage, all affordable housing options should be developed in addition to the approved East Vail project — not instead of this project. Taking our private land in East Vail means there is a permanent reduction in affordable housing locations for this community. The seriousness of that step is precisely the reason we have not reached a “solution” with this Town Council – while the town is focused on an economic trade, we are focused on the larger community issue.
On Ever Vail, we’ve had discussions with the town. It is a highly complex development that is many years away. In fact, both the Town Council and our company had serious reservations about connecting these two projects. Ever Vail includes housing, parking, a gondola, commercial space and more, which require solving difficult problems, like moving the frontage road. Just as there are constituents with concerns about the East Vail investment, we can be sure others will have concerns about Ever Vail, or any other development. We need affordable housing now.
It is reckless to block shovel-ready affordable housing for the purpose of holding out hope that it comes somewhere else, sometime else. This is not a “negotiation” with the town, but a more central question about the priority and timing of affordable housing.
We worked with the Town Council in good faith to get East Vail affordable housing approved in 2019 and we will continue to work with the town — even after they walked away from our partnership on that approval. We remain committed and determined to addressing the affordable housing needs of this Valley.
Bill Rock is executive vice president of Vail Resorts