Vail Daily column: Are impact fee revenue projections for Vail accurate?
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
Is there a basis for proposed fees? Colorado law limits impact fees to the actual costs due to the impact of the projected class of property, in this case future growth. The study projects that growth at 2,000 additional residential units and 500,000 square feet of additional commercial space. Those numbers seemed abnormally high — a 28 percent increase in residential units and a 40 percent increase in commercial space.
Equally as odd is that this projected growth is supposedly going to cause 57 percent of the cost of infrastructure improvements (amount of infrastructure improvements to be funded with impact or project fees). It is hard to imagine that 2,000 additional residences and 500,000 square feet of commercial development, assuming those numbers are legitimate, can possibly cause 57 percent of the cost of the wish list of desired improvements.
For several weeks, the Vail Homeowners Association has sought to ascertain the basis for those projections so we could examine their legitimacy. Now we have learned from town of Vail officials that junior staff members who are no longer with the town developed those numbers. Nonetheless, according to the same official, there is a breakdown of the commercial space number, but it raises more questions than it answers. At the same time, we received no backup or data for the residential space projections.
According to town of Vail officials, 90,000 square feet of new commercial space will be developed in Vail Village: 140,000 square feet at the Vail Valley Medical Center, 140,000 square feet in Lionshead Village and Ever Vail and 150,000 square feet in West Vail. Putting aside for the moment any chilling effect of an impact fee, these numbers seem exceedingly optimistic and do not appear to have the normal support or developmental data that would accompany such projections.
For example, the Lionshead Village/Ever Vail projection is at the maximum level of the Master Plan for the area, notwithstanding the fact that Vail Resorts has disavowed any intent to develop the area, thereby creating serious doubt about its future. And an additional 90,000 square feet in an already built-out Vail Village without any explanatory detail seems doubtful at best.
The same seems the case for the Vail Valley Medical Center and West Vail. Indeed, it would seem impossible that any reliable projection could be made for West Vail until the West Vail Master Plan is completed, a project that is probably at least a year off.
This inability to provide any empirical basis for the foundation of the study calls into question the legality of this initiative. If the projections for future growth are unfounded or unsubstantiated, the proposed fees would be illegal and there would be no basis to assess the proposed fees. Without underlying data or support, the town of Vail cannot demonstrate that the proposed fees are legitimate. This, then, becomes a thinly disguised tax on future development that is not related to growth or real infrastructure needs.
The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.