Vail housing proposals meet hostile crowd
January 11, 2007
Aspen, CO Colorado
VAIL ” Eustaquio Cortina stood up in front of the packed room and wanted to know why he might have to build more employee housing than other developers have had to build.
“I would like to pay the same as the Ritz,” he said, referring to the Ritz-Carlton Residences, which is just down the street from his property in Lionshead and has already been approved.
If Vail passes a new employee housing proposal, Cortina would face much stricter requirements if he wants to build more homes on his property.
“And the Ritz?” he asked insistently.
A town official explained that the new rules wouldn’t apply to developments approved before last November. Unsatisfied, Cortina stormed out of the room.
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More than a hundred people ” many of them developers, Realtors, architects, or homeowners who want to add on to their homes ” came to a meeting at the Vail Municipal Building to learn about strict new employee housing rules that the town is considering.
Under the current proposal, 30 percent of new homes would have to be deed-restricted employee housing. Developers could satisfy the requirement on site or elsewhere in Vail. Or they could also pay a fee of $315 per square foot.
The requirements would only apply to new square footage. If a new 3,000-square-foot home replaces an old 3,000 square-foot-home, the new rules wouldn’t apply.
New stores would have to build housing for 20 percent of the jobs they create under the current proposal.
The response was overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed rules. Some said developers would go elsewhere, to Avon or farther afield to Park City, Utah, or South Carolina.
Others said the rules would make free-market homes more expensive and shoo away homebuyers. Others said they simply wouldn’t be able to put the additions on their homes they were planning.
The town is unfairly asking developers to solve the whole town’s problems, said Mike Dantas of Dantas Builders, who builds about three homes a year in Vail.
“The tax should be for everybody,” he said. “It shouldn’t be for one group.”
Perhaps more property taxes would be a good way to get money for affordable housing, Dantas said. Others suggested using the $8.5 million left over from the failed attempt to build a conference center.
Dantas wouldn’t be able to pass the extra cost of including employee housing to the buyer of a home, he said.
“What they’re saying is ‘You can get that extra money,’ but I don’t really buy that,” he said.
Dantas owns a property in Intermountain, but he might try to use it for open space rather than try to build something on it if the rules pass, he said.
The town wants to keep 30 percent of its workers living in town. That’s the amount of workers who currently live in Vail.
But projects that are already approved will add 1,500 jobs in coming years. The next wave of redevelopment may add 2,115 jobs, town officials say. Other projections say development in Avon and Edwards will add 7,370 more jobs.
As all of these jobs are being created, free-market homes are being bought up by second-home owners and retirees. By 2020, nearly all workers living in Vail will live in some kind of affordable housing, town officials say.
Town officials worry that without affordable housing, the town will lose “community,” have to pay more to employ workers, won’t be able to have keep enough workers, and have increased demand for transit and parking.
Councilman Kent Logan said affordable housing is part of the town’s infrastructure.
“We are fooling with one of the major props under the economy of this town and this valley,” he said.
But undue burden shouldn’t be put on small-property owners, Logan said.
The town should buy affordable housing downvalley, where land is cheaper, and the council needs to take a slow, deliberate approach to the process, he said.
But some developers’ projects are in limbo because they don’t know how much employee housing they’re on the hook for. All development approved after last November are subject to the new rules, whatever they eventually will be.
“If we’re going slow, how do we build a house in the process?” asked developer Peter Knobel.
Sue Mason, an East Vail resident, was one of the few attendees who talked about the need for affordable housing.
“You have to create an aura of enticing employees to come here,” she said.
The town of Vail is considering a proposal that would require 30 percent of new homes be affordable housing. That method is called “inclusionary zoning.” Here are inclusionary zoning requirements in other Colorado towns:
Aspen/Pitkin County: 30 percent
Boulder: 20 percent
Carbondale: 15 percent
Eagle County: 20 percent
Garfield County: 10 percent
Glenwood Springs: 15 percent
Longmont: 10 percent
San Miguel County: 15 percent
Steamboat Springs: 15 percent