Building worker housing in Vail seems like a no-brainer. Many ski towns and cities in Colorado are dealing with housing crises, and workers need places to live to have the lifts spinning and keep the mountains functional. Back in April, Vail announced they were planning to build a worker housing unit in East Vail, which would be the residence of 165 employees. The project was approved by the town of Vail in 2019 and upheld by Eagle County District Court in October 2020. Additionally, Vail conducted a wildlife study with input from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to make sure this was the right spot to build worker housing. Unfortunately, the project was delayed due to the pandemic.
Since then, they have faced fierce resistance from Vail’s Town Council. In an August meeting, the town council passed an ordinance that prohibits issuing a permit of any type for a period of time which will delay construction until at least next summer. This time is for the town to conduct an appraisal, and after that, decide to either buy or condemn the land. The town council passed an ordinance earlier in 2022 to start condemning the property, which is where their final decision is likely heading to.
According to Vail Daily, Vail Resorts has responded by filing a complaint to the Eagle County District Court against the town of Vail in order to get workforce housing built. The complaint is over the improper usage of an emergency ordinance that happened in August.
The reasoning for Vail’s Town Council stopping worker housing is NIMBYism disguised as faux environmental/habitat concerns. The town council is worried about how this development could affect the bighorn sheep herd winter hangout area. This was not an issue though when other luxury houses were being built around the site and further up the hill than Vail’s proposed building. It should be noted that the proposed development is located just off of I-70 Frontage Road, so they aren’t building a large road up the mountain. Vail Resort’s legal filing explains their work with a bighorn sheep expert to make sure they construct the building properly and during the right time frame:
“Vail Resorts engaged a bighorn sheep expert to evaluate whether the soils testing permit would have any impact on the bighorn sheep referenced in Ordinance 16, and she determined that it would not. She was the only bighorn sheep expert who appeared and testified at the hearing on Aug. 2, 2022. She further testified that the Town’s delay until Nov. 1, 2022 to conduct such testing would actually be more problematic for the bighorn sheep than allowing Vail Resorts to move forward now.”
A statement from Bill Rock, our Executive Vice President, below. A huge thank you to our incredible Vail team members and those in the community who came out in support of desperately needed #affordablehousing. pic.twitter.com/h3EAyA6MY6
— Vail (@vailmtn) May 4, 2022
The town has offered Vail Resorts other locations in town for worker housing, which the ski resort giant is interested in. However, Vail Resorts wants to create the East Vail dorm building and work with the town on other projects. Vail has actively been using their Twitter account to criticize the town council’s reasoning and has been showing other examples of ski communities investing in employee and affordable housing.
Despite our deep concerns with the Town’s decision to pursue condemnation of our East Vail land, we want to begin working with the Town immediately on the additional affordable housing opportunities that the Town has identified.
— Vail (@vailmtn) June 24, 2022
As someone who generally views Vail Resort’s social media pages as repetitive and robotic, it’s a breath of fresh air. I do agree with skeptics that they should’ve done more about workers and affordable housing at their flagship resort earlier. In spite of this, we should still support them in trying to get their employees in affordable housing that’s closer to the mountain.
Image Credits: Vail Mountain