Vail Daily column: Process raises questions
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.
The council has initiated proceedings to amend the Comprehensive Open Lands Plan. That plan was created as part of the 1994 town of Vail and U.S. Forest Service boundary adjustment proceeding. The proceeding was sparked when the community was blindsided by a Forest Service exchange associated with the Lodge at Vail. The purpose of that proceeding was to transfer ownership of Forest Service lands that were within the town of Vail boundaries to the town and to remove certain Forest Service parcels from within the town through boundary adjustments. In doing so, the town of Vail and Forest Service were careful not to engage in any transaction that would compromise the town’s self-imposed prohibition against acquiring exchange land for development purposes, and certain lands were not transferred over because it was believed that they would be better protected as open space under federal control.
The Comprehensive Open Lands Plan that was completed as part of that process identified several Forest Service parcels beyond but in close proximity to the town boundary that the town of Vail and the Forest Service might consider as part of a future land exchange. Only two of the current 11 Forest Service parcels on the proposed list for resident housing acquisition were included in that plan, thus, the necessity to amend the plan. What those amendments are going to be and what land Vail will seek to include has not yet been revealed.
Vail is moving quickly, but acquisition of federal land is a complex process. Federal authorities require that “fair market value” be paid for the land, as determined by an official appraisal. The usual acquisition method is by “inholding” trades, whereby the purchaser buys privately owned “inholding” property within or adjacent to the national forest to exchange for the desired Forest Service land. Also not yet revealed is how Vail intends to acquire the Forest Service lands.
So far, the town of Vail has not asked neighbors or the community what they feel about such acquisitions or more development, even though the preliminary analysis indicates that some of the parcels may become political hot buttons. There also has been no disclosure about the nature or extent of public participation in this process.
The lack of any public information and transparency about this initiative raises a host of questions. Any type of land acquisition of this nature would unquestionably be a very expensive undertaking. Having just committed $50 million to a 10-year housing plan, where is the money going to come from to buy Forest Service land? Or, is this somehow intended to be part of the 10-year housing plan? And, if so, is $50 million sufficient to both buy the land and build the housing, or will all or most of the money have to go to land acquisition?
Given the outcome of the recent election on the Eagle County proposal to increase sales taxes to pay for affordable housing — it was defeated by 63 percent of the vote — is the Vail housing plan itself, which depends on tax increases to fund years four through 10, even still viable?
If these issues concern you, then get informed and become involved. Government responds to the public; silence only enables those who would seek to profit in the absence of accountability. Join the Vail Homeowners Association in shining a spotlight on 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.