Vail Daily letter: Marriott revisited
January 19, 2017
The Jan. 17 evening session of the Vail Town Council tackled the proposed Marriott combination hotel and attached 96 EHU (employee housing units — a name I hate) apartments.
The whole complex is long, high, somewhat monolithic, with no apparent feature separating the two functions. The hotel is on the west end, immediately in front of a condominium complex — that would have its view of the mountains blocked. The employee housing units are on the east end, in front of nobody as it's isolated with steep open land behind and adjacent to the east.
The proposition at the meeting was either you get the whole combination proposal or just the hotel — all said in very respectable ways. The proponent gave a polished, comprehensive, fast-paced presentation. Members of the public in favor largely focused on benefits of employee housing units and a mid-priced hotel. Members of the public against focused on the impacts to residents in the referenced condominium complex (on Meadow Ridge Road) and the urban look of the combined structure. The Town Council had very thoughtful comments, but ultimately voted 5-2 to move ahead to a "second reading" — largely because the town is getting employee housing units with little cost.
As the "process guy" and from a process perspective, the events seem to have two shortcomings:
• Goal-driven priorities: The main goals for "town-sponsored" (new term) housing have always been, one, getting more folks who work here to live here and, two, children — being all about assuring we have enough to make Vail a proper residential town. Much of the time these two goals are "joined the hip." Yet in the entire discussion, children did not come up once, yet we know children will be living in some of the employee housing units. But the subject did come up in an indirect way as the subject of dogs, and being dog-friendly, did come up — noting when there are dogs, many times there will be children!
• Negotiation options: Per "negotiation 101" basic principles, middle ground options are always on the table. Yet, it was pretty much a "take it or leave it" discussion — however nicely explained.
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An alternative solution to these shortcomings could have been:
• Reduce the number of employee housing units from 96 to something less (70?) that would help make the whole thing more child and human friendly. This could entail one less floor (less height), more ground elbow room and play and dog exercise areas, etc.
• Switch the hotel with the employee housing units. This would allow a lowered height employee housing apartment section to be in front of the referenced "blind-sided" condominiums and less isolation from the community — now being adjacent to the west of folks living here and closer to both the bus and the recently renovated Buffehr Creek playground. That would leave the higher (or redesigned even higher) hotel part to be in front of nobody and surrounded by mountain open space to the rear and to the east.
These notions may or may not have made sense. But the point is to up-front show the public options and allow them to weigh in on them before the whole thing gets set in stone — where you then have limited options and one might appear to be an obstructionist by asking questions. And it is all about process.
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