In the ongoing saga of Vail Corp. versus Vail town, a strong and vocal group of residents are siding with the town of Vail. Vail Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month, and the council meetings typically start with citizens’ input. At the latest council meeting, many residents attended in person to show their support for the town’s proposal to acquire by condemnation the 23.2-acre parcel of land in East Vail from Vail Corp. Those who could not attend in person made sure to email their support.
Vail Corp. and Vail Town are currently at loggerheads over an affordable building project in East Vail. The hotly contested parcel of land is inside the native Vail Bighorn Sheep grazing area. The town argues that the project will not only disturb but decimate the native Bighorn Sheep population. Vail Corp. and its supporters, however, are quick to point out that the affordable housing project would only use five acres of the 1,000 acres of grazing land while the remaining 17 acres would be turned into a dedicated preservation area.
Three weeks ago, Vail Corp. filed a complaint against the town of Vail at the Eagle County District Court for ‘improper use of an emergency ordinance.’ Ordinance 16 was used by Vail town to stop all permits on the land, including a scheduled soil sampling, that Vail Corp. claimed was not going to impact the Bighorn Sheep herd. Vail Resorts is seeking to have the ordinance overturned to start construction of the housing project as soon as possible.
- Related: Vail Corp. Files Court Complaint Against Town of Vail, CO, as Battle Over Workforce Housing Project Drags On
The turnout by residents is not unusual or surprising. In a May council meeting, many Vail Corp. employees and executives had turned up to show their support for the affordable housing project, painting quite a different picture to the one seen during this council meeting on September 6.
Supporters of the affordable housing project are quick to label the outspoken citizens who turned up at the council meeting as ‘NIMBYs.’ It does indeed beg the question of whether those who turned up for the council meeting were genuinely concerned about the Bighorn Sheep or simply did not want affordable housing near their homes. There is a sizeable residential area with luxury residences, Vail’s public works campus, and the Vail Mountain School in the same Bighorn Winter grazing area.
Objectively, one has to wonder how significant the impact of a housing project would be adjacent to a busy highway. Especially when the project takes up only 0.5% of the winter grazing land, and a considerably larger residential area with multi-million dollar residences is only a stone’s throw away.
The fact is that at a median house price of $2 million, you need to ask how Vail town is proposing to handle the housing problem. It is not just short-term seasonal staff that is struggling to find accommodation. The county can also not attract teachers and has had to resort to Habitat for Humanity projects. Habitat plans to build 12 houses next to Eagle County schools to avert a staff crisis at the local schools. But relying on charity is hardly a long-term solution to attract quality staff in an area with a massive influx of new residents.
All parties involved need to acknowledge that a solution must be found, and quickly at that. There are staff shortages everywhere in the US, and you cannot attract staff if you cannot provide affordable housing for these hardworking people. It is not just the ski resort that cannot operate without staff, but the entire town of Vail.