Vail Daily letter: Not a blank check
October 21, 2016
The argument that ballot initiative 1A is a blank check is simply false. The county has done its homework on affordable housing solutions and it's time to act! A 2016 housing needs assessment is in place, as is a strategic plan. Meetings have been held with the community, all towns and partners like Vail Resorts. Priority parcels have been identified; some have even been designed for development, but are waiting for a funding infusion to pay for infrastructure.
Development in general has come to a standstill. Between the high cost of land, and the requirement that the developers create 25 percent of residential development as affordable, the numbers just don't pencil. This community is as prepared as it can be to utilize a small sales tax (3 cents on every $10 excluding groceries) to house our workforce.
The funding will: create more Miller Ranch-type neighborhoods; develop price-capped rentals for locals to counter the VRBO and Airbnb phenomenon; help with costly infrastructure costs; help bank land for future development and enhance the first-time home-buyer program. When opponents say this is a blank check, I am not sure if they expect specific parcels to be listed in the ballot language, but that is nonsensical. The program will be overseen by a multi-jurisdictional housing committee and operate similar to Summit County's successful program.
Eagle County has a track record of creating affordable housing. Places like Miller Ranch, Lake Creek Village apartments and the new Castle Peak Senior Care Community are a good examples, but there are so few because the county doesn't have a specific funding stream or any significant land banked for such a purpose. If 1A passes, our community will join other areas like Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Boulder, Winter Park, Summit County and Gunnison County that have a specific tax for affordable housing. Voters may have philosophical reasons for voting for or against a sales tax increase, but the argument of a blank check should not be one of them. Who knows when this opportunity will arise again?
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