Valley Voices: Shame on you, Vail Resorts
Shame on you, Vail Resorts – Rob Katz, Kirsten Lynch, Beth Howard.
The recent announcement that Vail Resorts (VR) plans to build a $17 million project for workforce housing on Booth Heights – the bighorn sheep habitat. Wow. Where have you been since 1964? And why the announcement now?
My guess is that VR finally realized that if you want good employees, you must fairly pay them and provide reasonable housing. VR has never done either. And VR still does not provide sufficient wages to make it possible for long term non-management employees to remain here. My guess is that the motivating factors are that there is a labor shortage, but also recently the Town has reduced the number of residential units that it leases to VR.
What is even more galling is Beth Howard’s claim that VR is “doing our (VR) part to mitigate environmental impacts.” Independent and former Colorado Department of Wildlife experts have testified that the Booth Heights projects will wipe out the remaining bighorn sheep herd. She did not address that this large multi-family project is not compatible with the neighborhood nor the sheep habitat.
VR’s loyalty and obligations are to their stockholders not to the Town.
How much of the building announcement and simultaneous article by Beth Howard, vice president of VR, are due to trying to increase the value of the property due to the Town’s effort to buy the property under eminent domain?
But, also, the Town should bear shame for past Town council’s naivete in dealing with Vail Resorts. There is no moral conflict of interest code that would have prohibited a VR employee serving on the PEC and a VR employee serving on Town Council from casting the deciding votes that gave VR a substantial increase in value with new zoning. This zone change may now increase dramatically the cost to the Town for condemnation. I remember when Ted Kindel, a Vail founder, resigned from Town Council when he became affiliated with Vail Associates.
Vail Resorts should do the right things and:
1) Donate the land to the Town as perpetual open space, thereby taking the increased valuation as a tax deduction.
2) Build sufficient quality workforce housing either on EverVail or down valley for your full-time and seasonal employees. EverVail is appropriate for the size of the structures and could provide for 300-400 workforce units.
3) Create a quality experience for our guests and residents by limiting the number of skiers on the mountain. I avoid skiing on the weekends due to the danger of being hit. There is a reason that Vail has slipped from the top 3 to 8-15th place.
The Vail Town Council should also do the right things by:
1) Begin immediately condemnation action, for the benefit of its citizens, to purchase Booth Heights for open space and EverVail for workforce housing. EverVail might also be less expensive.
2) Immediately cease any leasing of Town-controlled housing, not only to Vail Resorts, but also to the top five employers (excepting the school district). All of Town-controlled housing is subsidized and should be reserved to employers of 50 or less employees.
3) Implement a Code of Ethics that prohibits any person serving on a Town public body from voting on an issue that affects their present employers or employers from the past three years.
4) Purchase land suitable for future housing needs west of Dowd Junction.
5) Implement a requirement that all projects over a cost of $500,000 be competitively bid, but allow other quality issues to be taken into consideration.
Laine & Merv Lapin; Elaine & Art Kelton; Debbie & Rob Ford; Sara Newsam; Kathy & Bill Heicher; Diana Donovan; Susie & Brad Tjossem; Blondie & Tom Vucich; Shannon & Todger Anderson; Laurie Mullen; Meg & Jamie Duke; Margaret Dedecker & Bill Rey; Sue, Kent, & Leigh Rychel; Carey Anderson Rash & A. Todd Rash; Pam Stenmark and Trey Milhoan
Merv Lapin has served eight years on Vail Town Council, 4 years on Vail Planning Commission, 4 years on Eagle County Planning Commission, 4 years on Vail Water & Sanitation District, 8 years on the Vail Recreation District. Merv has been a resident of Vail since 1966.