Vail Daily column: Open space, increased densities and sustainability in Vail
May 5, 2017
• Open space: For many months, the town of Vail has been considering obtaining land for housing development by expanding the town boundaries through the acquisition of adjacent U.S. Forest Service lands. This was being done without extensive public input.
Since the Vail Homeowners Association first raised the issue in November, it is not clear what has happened, but the Open Lands Plan is reportedly moving forward. No price tag has been assigned to these endeavors, but it is clear that any such acquisitions must be at fair market value. And, any such acquisitions would require large infrastructure expenditures to make the land usable. In other words, this could be a hugely expensive, budget-busting endeavor.
Vail Homeowners Association opposes any use of open space land, for development or otherwise. It intends to continue to monitor the progress of the Open Lands Plan and, publicly, report on all developments.
• Increased densities and super-sized projects: Recently, over neighborhood objections, the town used a Special Development District to give "spot-zoning" approval to the high-density, super-sized redevelopment of the Roost Lodge property. This may be a harbinger of things to come. In the 1990s, in the town's Open Lands Plan, planners fixed the projected build-out of Vail at 900 more units. By 2010, more than 1,800 additional units had been built, which should have more than maxed out the town's capacity. But, planners are now envisioning ever-increasing densities.
Already in the Vail 2027 Housing Plan, there is a proposal to "create a Housing Overlay District that allows for increased density" and a call for a Nexus study, which is the legally required prerequisite for any such action. Reconsideration of Vail's Open Lands Plan is proceeding, albeit mostly out of public sight of the larger community. In the town's current Transportation Plan, there is a projection of an additional 2,000 new residential units in Vail, as the town engineer recently told the Town Council.
With no available land to accommodate such exponential growth, the only way that scale of expansion could occur is through increased densities and more super-sized projects. With hints that the town is now going to undertake the long-awaited West Vail master plan, it seems that neighborhood compatibility might be the first focus of such initiatives.
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Vail Homeowners Association opposed the Roost Lodge expansion. It will continue to oppose "spot-zoning" and will, also, oppose increasing densities that are not approved as part of a community-wide, public evaluation of existing town capacities.
• Sustainability planning: Vail is moving forward with a sustainability evaluation. At the present, it appears that this will be mainly an environmental evaluation. True sustainability, however, involves all aspects of a community. In Vail's case, it should include determination of the town's "carrying capacity" so that its facilities will not be swamped and the quality of life can be maintained: matching the town's budget and activities to that capacity, having a master plan for development and solving the housing and parking crises with comprehensive, realistic plans.
• What you can do: If these are matters that concern you, then get informed and become involved. Government responds to the public; silence only enables others with different agendas to act in your absence. If you are not already a member, then join the Vail Homeowners Association. Together, we will continue to shine a spotlight on these issues that concern everyone.
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.
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