Vail Daily column: Guiding Vail’s future
Something remarkable happened in our Town Council Chambers recently and I’m hopeful that it could mark the beginning of what’s to come. It was standing room only as members of the community gathered to take part in an important discussion about the future of the former Roost Lodge site. And while opinions varied, each person who took to the podium offered informed and passionate comments about the topic at hand. Earlier in the evening, there was another spirited discussion to help determine the potential pool of eligible buyers whose names will be drawn in a lottery soon to determine just who might live in one of the 32 homes we’ll be building that will form the new Chamonix Neighborhood at West Vail. Through it all, our love of community has been a common theme from those who spoke from both sides of the podium.
It’s discussions like these, where every voice is heard and varying opinions are presented and considered, that can make community discourse an effective way of conducting business in our town. Together, we can expand upon our decision-making framework to become even more inclusive, thoughtful, respectful and transparent as we look to the future. To do that, we’re asking community members to actively join us in the conversation. We need to hear from all sectors of the community, be it full-time residents, part-time residents, long-time residents, seasonal workers, retirees and others. As a member of our extended community, you have an important role in helping to shape decisions that affect our collective quality of life and we want to hear from you, not just once, but on a regular basis.
One of the ways to become involved is to join us in the kick off of our Open Lands Plan Update which will generate discussions from within every neighborhood in Vail. We’re hosting open houses today, Jan. 4 and again on Jan. 19 to introduce the planning process to as many community members as possible, including our part-time residents who have gathered here for the holidays. The Comprehensive Open Lands Plan was adopted 22 years ago and has provided our community with a forward-thinking approach for acquisition and use of lands for public benefit. Many of the actions identified in the plan have been accomplished, including lands to be protected, such as the East Vail waterfall parcel, but also acquisition of lands for other public benefits, such as the Hud Wirth site in West Vail which will soon become our new Chamonix Neighborhood. During the upcoming open houses, we’ll be sharing the current plan and asking if other public benefit actions should be considered. For example, are there opportunities to improve protection of Gore Creek? What are our future desires for recreational trails? Should we consider acquisition of any bordering U.S. Forest Service lands for housing or other uses? We’ll be probing these important questions throughout the planning process and we invite you to take part in the conversation. If you can’t make it to the kick off, you’ll be able to participate online soon at http://www.vailgov.com/openlandsupdate.
In addition to the Open Lands Plan Update, another important decision for this community is the Town Council’s review of the Marriott Residence Inn Special Development District. Our public hearing on this application will resume on Jan. 3. Please access the following link on Vail’s website for more information about this topic: http://www.vailgov.com/town-council/agendas.
Also on our agenda, and perhaps the most critical of all, is the selection of a new town manager. After 13 years on the job, Stan Zemler has informed us that he’ll be stepping down at the end of March following an extraordinary tenure in leading our town through Vail’s expansive redevelopment and recovering from the recession more rapidly than any other mountain resort community. We’re in the process of hiring an executive search firm to assist us in developing a candidate profile that will be used to match potential candidates with the skills and qualifications our next town manager should have. And in time, we’ll be reaching out to the community to invite you to meet our finalists and share your feedback as we seek to find the right fit for this high profile position.
As we look to an eventful year in 2017, I can’t help but look back at 2016 with immense pride in thinking about all that we’ve done together during our 50th year as a municipality to strengthen our community and position ourselves well for the next 50 years. We adopted an unprecedented plan to acquire 1,000 resident housing deed restrictions by the year 2027, approved a site plan for the Chamonix Neighborhood at West Vail, adopted a Gore Creek Strategic Action Plan that outlines over 220 actions to be implemented to improve the health of our stream and started construction on the I-70 underpass that will connect our neighborhoods when the project is completed a year from now. Also, progress was made on Vail Valley Medical Center’s $100 million expansion and funding was secured for much needed improvements to Red Sandstone Elementary School thanks to voter approval of a district wide bond issue. New recreation amenities also came on line including the long-awaited Vail Golf & Nordic Clubhouse, the Zeke M. Pierce Skatepark, pickleball courts at Golden Peak and major improvements to Booth Creek Park.
Whether you’ve been around for 50 years or you’ve just arrived, we invite you to join us in helping to guide the future of this magical place. Our Vail Town Council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month and our meetings are streamed live on http://www.vailgov.com. You can also email us with your comments at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Chapin is the mayor of Vail.