Vail Daily column: Planning for Vail’s future
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.
There are issues that should be discussed with Vail Resorts in an effort to find ways to make mountain experiences safe and sustainable for the future. While Vail has no right to limit access to the mountain, it can discuss these issues and express its opinions or concerns to both Vail Resorts and the Forest Service. And, part of the dialogue should include obtaining on-mountain incident records so that Vail can form evidence-based judgments about those activities. After all, with its future inextricably tied to the mountain, Vail has a direct interest in knowing what is going on. And, while Vail has no right to control mountain activities, it can, if necessary, affect skier numbers by eliminating on-street parking and adopting locals-first parking priorities in its parking facilities. The Vail Homeowners Association does not advocate doing so at this time, but there needs to be attention to the impact of on-mountain activity as it relates to Vail’s long-term sustainability.
While many questions remain about Vail Resorts’ plans and intentions, the Vail Valley Medical Center has quietly become Vail’s major employer and a financial colossus, racking up huge profits and reserves. It will be even more so with the redevelopment and expansion of its campus. The first phase is nearing completion, and the entire project is scheduled to be finished in 2020, bringing a state-of-the-art facility to Vail. As Vail’s major in-town corporate player, the Vail Valley Medical Center will be integral to Vail’s sustainability. At the same time, the Vail Valley Medical Center also solicits and receives charitable support from the community. Charity is a two-way street, and much is expected from those to whom much is given. That, too, will be a factor in Vail’s sustainability.
With a mission to sustain and enhance the quality of life of the Vail community and a large endowment, the Vail Valley Foundation is also integral to Vail’s sustainability. But, the recent attempt to bring a supersized Kaaboo, 15,000 to 30,000 people, event to Vail and plans to expand the annual Birds of Prey ski race to a weeklong event raise sustainability questions. Whether the Vail Valley Foundation mission is changing, and if so, how, will directly impact Vail’s sustainability.
These are questions which the Vail Homeowners Association believes need to be addressed as part of the planning for Vail’s future.
Underscoring the importance of these efforts is the mixed results of recent economic news. While Vail Resorts continues a healthy business outlook, experiencing, companywide, a 14.7 percent increase in skier visits during the February through April, third quarter, other indicators are showing some headwinds might be growing. The price per square foot and average sale price for Vail Village residential real estate has been dropping for several months. The monthly town of Vail financial status report indicates real estate transfer tax margins have contracted by 23.9 percent and sales tax receipts are modestly ahead of this time last year. The sales tax report for the winter season was not flattering to several categories of local businesses, with anecdotal commentary that the summer’s large crowds are filling the lodging properties but are being unusually frugal with their retail spending. Achieving sustainability could go a long way to improving Vail’s economic health.
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.