Vail Homeowners Association column: Fee plan relies on residential density
Editor’s note: 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.
• List of infrastructure improvements: The list of future public projects, on which the Transportation Impact Fee plan is based, raises some serious questions. The list seems inflated in that it includes recouping of $9 million for the cost of the Simba Run Underpass, and it also includes $5.6 million for Frontage Road improvements at the new Lions Condominium, $5.6 million for an expansion of the main Vail roundabout and $2 million for a reversible lane in the main Vail underpass, all of which seem to have already been built.
The list also includes $7.2 million in left turn lanes, $1.5 million in bus stop shelter improvements and $23 million in pedestrian walkway improvements, all of which are needs that exist even if there were to be no future growth and exist because of lack of attention by the town of Vail in the past, not new future growth. If these items are not legitimate future-growth related, then the amount of justifiable impact fees would be cut more than in half, it is estimated.
Another serious question about the list of improvements is that even though the list covers the next 20 years of transportation improvements, there is nothing on the list for public parking improvements. This may be due to the fact that parking needs already exist, even if there were no future growth and, thus, do not qualify for impact-fee financing, but prudent planning should not ignore those needs.
Of course, some of the present parking needs could be addressed by the proposed Red Sandstone parking structure (a joint venture between the town of Vail and the Eagle County School Board), but the additional 160 spaces that could be realized there would not satisfy current needs, much less allow any room for the future. By simply ignoring those needs, the town of Vail is again kicking the can down the road.
• Most disconcerting: Perhaps most disconcerting is the fact that this fee scheme locks the town to increased densities, as it is premised on an additional 2,000 residential units and 500,000 square feet of commercial space. With the town essentially built out (except for the Ever Vail property) and the transportation improvements dependent on these funds, the town has a built-in conflict of interest when it comes to requests for increased densities. Is ever-increasing density a sustainable path for the future of Vail?
And it is not just additional residents and commercial space. A consequence of those increases in densities is that more workers will be needed to service the additional residents and businesses that will occupy the additional commercial space — perhaps as many as 3,000 or even more (extrapolated from the town of Vail Code 12-23-2), and those workers will need housing, leading to a “tail-chasing” situation in which more density begets even more congestion and more need for affordable housing and parking.
None of this appears to have been considered by the town of Vail. With a suspect foundation and unforeseen consequences lurking at several different levels, not the least of which is a potential chilling effect on future development, it would seem that the town of Vail would be well served to terminate this proposal. If it is to be reconsidered in the future, it should be with more study and better opportunity for public input.
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.