Vail Daily column: Marriott proposal is the right plan
Eagle County voters spoke loud and clear last month by rejecting ballot issue 1A (a small sales tax of three cents on ten dollars). A clear explanation and accountability of how tax collections will be spent is always important when asking voters for a revenue increase, and while a plan was in place for potential 1A collections, it clearly wasn’t communicated effectively to voters.
We also heard from many voters that they believed housing was a private sector issue, and should be solved by the private sector. Many others believe that workforce housing (both rental and for purchase) is a community issue and needs to be solved through both public and private partners working in concert. Moving forward, most rational people understand the need for increased cooperation, communication and collaboration between public and private partners to address workforce housing.
‘Yes’ to Workforce housing
Wherever you fall on the private sector problem or community problem spectrum, the fact remains that workforce and affordable housing has long been an issue in Eagle County. This issue is only exasperated today due to the demographic data clearly showing an increased need for more affordable housing options for the current and future Eagle County workforce. Vail Valley Partnership’s board of governors, representing business interests and employers from Gypsum to Vail from a variety of industry sectors, believes addressing our affordable housing issue is essential to the continued success and growth of our business community. A healthy business community is essential to a healthy community, as quality of life begins with a good job.
So, what’s next for our workforce housing discussions? Stay tuned as Vail Valley Partnership will be working with other local business associations and nonprofit groups in 2017 to bring together a big tent group of public entities, private business interests and citizens to help provide a roadmap to ensure workforce housing solutions are better identified.
With that being said, as you may be aware, a Marriott Residence Inn and Workforce Housing project has been proposed for the former site of the Roost Lodge in West Vail. This project proposes both a mid-range hotel product and much needed workforce housing, in addition to public parking. Each of these are priorities identified by the VVP board – priorities that are aligned with our vision of economic vitality for the business community. As such, the Vail Valley Partnership Board of Directors has voted unanimously to give the proposed Marriott Residence Inn and Workforce Housing project our full and enthusiastic endorsement.
We feel this project addresses several critical issues facing Vail and Eagle County:
• The dire need for deed-restricted workforce housing with 107 apartments
• Mid-priced, or entry-level, lodging options with 130 units
• Underground parking and numerous other public benefits
Through our lens of economic vitality and business success, this project is exactly what is needed in Eagle County. The project’s location within the town of Vail and its close proximity to the commercial district of West Vail is another plus. We believe it is important to provide housing within already developed areas (avoiding urban sprawl) and within easy access to transit and jobs.
Additionally, we believe now is the time to take bold steps to address the needs of the Vail and Eagle County communities, both business and residential, relative to workforce housing and addressing entry-level lodging options. This project checks every box and does so with a thoughtful and impressive design, careful consideration of the surrounding neighborhood and is located in the highly desirable town of Vail.
It is a tremendous win for Vail as far as the Vail Valley Partnership is concerned, and we consider ourselves very fortunate that the developer has proposed this project at this time.
The developer has showed good faith in making many adjustments to the project over the past few months to help alleviate neighborhood concerns, and the project as submitted has numerous community benefits.
We strongly and respectfully urge the members of town council to consider the many public benefits of this project as it moves through the approval process. Please do not let this opportunity pass us by.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.