Vail Daily letter: Planning by precedent
The precedent set by approving the hybrid Marriott hotel and workforce housing complex, on the old Roost property, will become the model and template for future development of workforce housing along the I-70 frontage roads. The 30,000 foot view here is it’s a more “arms length” involvement with the town. Then detail features are: “dense pack” living on four or more floors, town-monitored deed restrictions, privately developed, market-based rental housing with the 96 apartments — with likely at least 250 occupants, with something like rules of no more than 50 dogs altogether, per unit-specific authority to have a dog!
I foresee many three or more floor projects replacing and repurposing existing commercial or town owned one- or two-floor buildings, with the downside of some views lost or the upside of noise buffering from I-70. In essence providing the capacity of the previously suggested “3,000 bed complex over I-70,” through a series of 100-plus bed complexes along the frontage roads. A great example would be re-configuring the town’s administrative site to include multi-level housing on top of office and meeting space — all done through some form of private development to keep the town from being a direct provider and manager of workforce housing.
The Marriott project was characterized as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity of obtaining workforce housing with an arm’s length, little or no cost to the town. Likely there will be many more when considering the seemingly insatiable demand for both rental and purchase units. In practice, the availability of workforce housing to meet that demand will likely be with private development, free-market pricing — coupled with some form of realistic deed restrictions. It will take both to ensure high occupancy that is required to justify the underlying business case to create this type housing.
As to deed restrictions, consider just the primary, registered “head of household” being required to certify a computed average of 30 hours worked per week, in Eagle County, over a 52-week period. Then consider a four- to five-month winter season with predictable 30 or more hours work in Eagle County, but then a 3-4 month spring/summer season with less predictable hours of work or county location of that work. That leaves three to five months off-season, where work is even less predictable, in addition to those who leave town for work or a variety of other reasons, but rightly want to maintain their housing. Then consider accounting for the possibility of changing “sublet” apartment mates during a year period. All this adds up to a very foggy process. Hence, the formula for certification occupancy needs review.
The overall goals for workforce housing are to ensure the units are not second homes or rented short term, coupled with the elusive term “affordable.” In practice, affordability will have to be via the going-market for workforce housing, unless the town creates an ongoing funding source via a new form of taxation for direct or indirect subsidies. Furthermore, its becoming more apparent that the council, even in its wisdom, can no longer interpret needs and customize housing to match the disappearing distinction between seasonal vs. permanent residents, with or without children or even with or without dogs. This was brought out with the conflicting views on the makeup for the Chamonix and Marriott projects.
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In summary, the Vail Town Council has told us our town is changing, with some of the tough decisions decided in favor of “the greater good.” Hence the implied scenario outlined above of housing along I-70 is really just going with the flow of that change and the stated operational mindset.