Vail Daily column: Parking, housing to remain hot topics
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.vail homeowners.com.
Parking and housing are perhaps Vail’s two most pressing problems; ones that are at the heart of any sustainability plan. These appear to have reached a critical level requiring immediate action. Recently the Vail Town Council pulled back from tax initiatives to finance more parking and affordable housing to allow time to negotiate with Vail Resorts and develop concrete plans. That was a prudent step, but as those plans are being developed, they should include a realistic assessment of future parking and housing needs so that the resulting solutions foster a sustainable community.
The Vail Housing Authority and town planning staff have also just announced a bold plan to deed-restrict 1,000 units in 10 years. The plan would cost $3.7 million the first year, increasing to $5 million for the next three years with tax increases to fund the remaining years. Whether this plan becomes reality remains to be seen.
Time is of the essence. The parking problem grows worse while we wait. There has now been resort to on-street frontage road parking for the Booth Falls trailhead, and tourists continue to stream into the mountains with three weekends in July recording the top-three counts ever through Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial tunnels. And, housing shortages continue to grow while a county-wide solution has yet to be addressed in any meaningful way.
Bigger is not better, nor sustainable
Economic health is also vital to sustainability. In recent years, it has seemed, at times, that “bigger” has been a goal of Vail’s economic development plans. Although not a Vail initiative, the recent ill-proposed KABOO event is the poster child for this trend. However, high-volume tourism is not necessarily a good thing, and ever bigger events with higher impacts are not sustainable.
Sustainability requires recognizing limits and adopting policies that work within those limits — the opposite of growth for growth’s sake. It envisions a balance between tourism and the community: between economic development and preservation of community assets and values, and between our beauty and culture and demands for more uses of it. For a resort community, it means managing tourism so that the community and its environment can be enjoyed by both visitors and residents alike. And, it means carrying those values into the future so that generations to come have the same opportunities.
The Elephant In The Room
Vail’s sustainability is directly impacted by the numbers of skiers (and now summer tourists) using the mountain. Up until recently, that seems to have been a manageable number, but Vail Resorts does not release any information to judge how that might be changing, especially since the introduction of the Epic Pass. All that is known is that there is no limit on the number of Epic Passes or day passes that the company sells. Anecdotal experience seems to indicate that those numbers are growing and on-mountain safety, likewise, seems to be a growing problem.
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.