President - Alan Kosloff     Secretary - Ellie Caulkins    Treasurer - Patrick Gramm    Executive Director  -  Jim Lamont

Directors:  Judith Berkowitz  -  Dolph Bridgewater  -  Richard Conn  -  Gail Ellis  -  Ron Langley

Eugene Mercy  -  Bill Morton  -  Trygve Myhren  -  Gretta Parks  -  Emeritus: Bob Galvin


To:             VVHA Membership and Interested Parties

From:         Jim Lamont

Date:          August 21, 2006

RE:             VVHA Status Report: Vail Community Visioning - Conflicts And Consensus Ahead 


Community Development - Conflict and Consensus Ahead: It is an open question, if public sentiments can affect the form and function of Town government sponsored development projects, except through the referendum election process.  The Town, in an effort to calm intense emotion and uncertainty about Vail’s future, is hosting a “community visioning process”. The purpose of the community vision is to layout options with the intent of shaping a community consensus on critical social equity, infrastructure, environmental, planning and development issues.


The Homeowners Association has an ongoing interest in these issues as any substantive change in vision or the balance of power between the Town of Vail, its citizens and property owners affects the outcome of community’s quality of life and residential experience.  The Association has been requested to participate in this process as an institutional stakeholder.


In the Town Council's discussion setting the Crossroad referendum election, two councilmen proposed a Home Rule Charter amendment be placed on this November's ballot that would make it more difficult for citizens to call for a referendum vote.  They propose to double the number of required signatures.  The Town of Vail’s referendum petition signature requirement, through prior amendment of the charter, is already double that required by Colorado State Statute. 


In a counter response to the proposal, others have suggested that a Charter amendment should be placed before the voters that would provide for a liberalization of voter residency requirements to include enfranchisement of all property owners.  The residency amendment is in response to the disproportional impact upon the broader community interest that voting “seasonally transient” employees are having upon Town of Vail election issues. The Colorado Appellate Court open the door to this prospect.  


Some local development interests have been effective in concentrating their electioneering efforts, which favors large redevelopment projects, by appealing to entertainment gratification rather than infrastructure improvements.  Two incumbent councilpersons failed to regain their seats because they opposed controversial aspects of the Crossroads redevelopment.  Similarly, the Crossroads Special Election in the view of some observers turned on gratification rather than infrastructure or urbanization issues. 


The subject of further restricting Vail’s democratic participation process was first brought to the attention and reported by the Homeowners Association in reference to the Town of Vail's current effort to redevelop the Lionshead Parking Structure and portions of the Civic Center Site.  The redevelopment is to include a major hotel, commercial and residential development as well as certain public amenities that have yet to be fully articulated.    


The Town of Vail is sensitive to the potential that this redevelopment proposal could negatively affect public opinion.  There is a historic thread in the community that objects to the Town government giving subsidies such as tax revenues, publicly owned land or density concessions to underwrite commercial development.  Voters have consistently rejected such proposals.


Troublingly, negotiation over the design and planning for the redevelopment of the Town owned Timber Ridge affordable housing has been taking place largely behind closed doors.  It is rumored that one of the proposals, being given serious consideration, is three to four times the size of the Middle Creek affordable housing project.  The Middle Creek project itself was and remains a source of community debate about urbanization. It is being said of Timber Ridge by some public officials, as was said of the Middle Creek affordable housing project, the size of the project isn’t a problem because it won’t affect anyone’s view.


Nearby Timber Ridge on the North Frontage Road, neighborhood activism about the proposed redevelopment of the Roost Lodge caused the developer to lower the height of the proposed building.  The project awaits final design review approval by the Town of Vail.


It remains to be seen, if citizen action may still be an effective tool in reshaping redevelopment projects.  The Roost Lodge developer initiated litigation over alleged misleading statements about the project made by opponents to the redevelopment of Crossroads in the recent Town special election campaign. 


The Roost litigation, the outcome of the Crossroads Special Election and the possibility of a Charter/referendum amendment represent a transformation in the ongoing debate and conflict over redevelopment of the community.  The mixture becomes more worrying when added to the mix is the Town of Vail’s method of dealing with some of its own development proposals, the abuse of Special Development Districts, and the lack of consistency in its enforcing and updating master plan protections.  Particularly, when some public officials tend to drift towards deciding, behind closed doors, important aspects of development proposals that would otherwise be shaped by legitimate public participation and debate. 


It is perceived that certain local development, real estate, and business interests are positioning themselves to take full political control the Town government in the coming Council election. There is the view that the ability of non-residential property owners to affect the outcome of growth related issues is being steadily eroded with each successive development conflict.   


There is a trend towards a rapid acceleration of speculative development in Vail Village, Lionshead, and the West Vail commercial center.  Other redevelopment projects in the offing are the Four Season Hotel, Manor Vail, Ritz Carlton, Apollo Park, the Willows, Rucksack, Evergreen Lodge, Enzian/Vail Glo Lodge, Lion Square North, Rams Horn Lodge, West Vail Holiday Inn, West Lionshead, Vail Medical Center, as well as several other large and small projects that are in discussion phase.  Interval ownership is appearing in many of these projects. 


The last time, in the early 1970’s, the community saw this rate of speculative development; there was government intervention to reduce densities.  The timing of government intervention was too late to significantly reduce speculative development.   A market glut ensued, resulting in a notable decline in real estate values.  There was during this and other periods of economic downturn, large buildings in Vail and elsewhere in the Vail Valley that sat for several years, empty or partially completed.


It is being reported that presently the real estate market is softening in the Vail Valley. Some informed sources maintain that Vail’s lack of available inventory and the advent of the baby boomer retirement market will not appreciably affect the community’s rate of growth or prospects.  Locally, it is being heard more frequently that there is a desire to slow the rate of growth.  How that is accomplished is problematic and will be the subject of much debate.