Vail Daily column: Who pays for Vail’s housing
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.
Who pays for Vail’s housing plan? If the Forest Service land is acquired, how is the necessary infrastructure going to be financed? These new neighborhoods will require utilities and roads. Providing them is also going to be an expensive undertaking. And, it is not just the roads internal to the neighborhoods; several of the parcels will have to be accessed through existing neighborhoods. Those roadways may well, also, have to be improved to handle the increased traffic. Where will the funding come from for those improvements?
What about the impact on the adjacent neighborhoods? If, for example, either the Potato Patch or Highland Meadow sites were selected, then hundreds of additional people would have to transit those neighborhoods. What will that do to the character and quality of life of those neighborhoods? And, what would be the impact on the property values of those neighborhoods if a large tract of affordable housing were built in their backyards? Of course, the same questions would apply to most of the rest of the proposed sites.
The housing being targeted by town of Vail housing initiative appears to be solely for middle income wage earners. There still does not appear to be any consideration for the housing needs of workforce employees or seasonal workers. Apparently, at least by inaction, the Town Council has taken the position that providing housing for that class of employees is going to be left to private employers. Is it prudent to expand the population of Vail without addressing those needs? Are the land exchanges for middle income housing to be followed by exchanges of land on Vail Mountain for seasonal service workers? This was an electioneering proposal that was making the rounds in the election just past.
This initiative takes the social engineering aspect of population selectivity in the Vail 10-year housing plan to a new level. What does this do to the character of Vail, or the quality of life, or the environment? Are these issues that should be addressed? Does this initiative mean that the town of Vail is abandoning any efforts to forge a county-wide solution to the housing crisis?
The Vail Homeowners Association does not oppose affordable housing, just the opposite. The Vail Homeowners Association has long urged that the availability of affordable housing is one of Vail’s most pressing problems. There is a clear need for a comprehensive plan for both middle class and workforce housing. But, crafting that plan should be a public process, with full transparency and public input at each stage of the process. It could be argued that the recent county tax defeat was due, at least in part, to the lack of specificity in the proposal. There is no reason that Vail should find itself in the same fix.
Before going further, the Vail Homeowners Association believes the Town Council should make an extraordinary effort at complete transparency about this initiative, to give detailed and timely notice to all affected property owners and to conduct a balanced public hearing and review process. This would include suspending any efforts to give preference or organizational support to land exchange advocates. It should be done at the outset, not after the train has already left the station. Every effort should be made to give ample and timely public notice that will allow public input to be brought before the council for discussion.
Donovan Park is one of the largest areas of pristine open space within the town of Vail. Its purchase was funded with Real Estate Transfer Tax funds, which were restricted to be used solely for the acquisition of open space within the town of Vail. Importantly, although there have been several efforts over the years to authorize the use of RETT funds for affordable housing, that was never done.
In the early 1990s there was a proposal to use part of Donovan Park for affordable housing. The proposal was aggressively opposed by neighborhood property owners. The intensity of neighborhood opposition peaked when housing for seasonal workers was one of the options being contemplated. The housing proposal went into hibernation when neighbors mounted a legal challenge. Since then Donovan Park has been maintained as an open space park.
It now appears that the Middle Bench of Donovan Park may end up on the town of Vail shopping list to convert land originally acquired as open space to residential development. When the Town Council was discussing amending the Comprehensive Open Land Plan at the recent council meeting, the suggestion was made that the Middle Bench of the park should be included so it could be considered as an option for affordable housing.
No action was taken at that time, but residents should not be surprised if Donovan Park is on the list when the proposed amendments to the plan are finally made public. As already noted, the Town Council appears to be moving very rapidly to put its housing plans in place, so the amendments to the Comprehensive Open Land Plan could be forthcoming at any time.
If these issues concern you, 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.