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The fate of Timber Ridge was one of many topics discussed during the Oct. 18 Vail Town Council election debate. Many candidates felt that increased affordable housing, coupled with improved facilities, would restore vibrancy to the town and therefore increasing lagging sales tax revenues.
The fate of Timber Ridge was one of many topics discussed during the Oct. 18 Vail Town Council election debate. Many candidates felt that increased affordable housing, coupled with improved facilities, would restore vibrancy to the town and therefore increasing lagging sales tax revenues.
Coucil candidates speak up on Vail's lagging sales tax, housing, other issues
10 candidates join for VCBA debate
By Tom Boyd

October 19, 2007 — A vacation in Vail is often paired with the purchase of a souvenir or two, anything from a T-shirt to a Golden Bear necklace, a new winter coat or a 10-gallon cowboy hat. The Town of Vail relies on taxes from such purchases to fill its general fund which, unlike money from some other taxes, isn’t already earmarked for another purpose and can be used at the town council’s discretion.

Sales taxes, however, aren’t what they used to be as a percentage of overall town revenues.

This issue was at the center of a town council election debate held Thursday night (Oct. 18) at Vail’s Donovan Pavilion, hosted by the Vail Chamber & Business Association (VCBA) and mediated by David O. Williams of RealVail. The VCBA’s Kaye Ferry pointed out that, while sales taxes once accounted for 60 percent of the Town of Vail’s revenue, the number has stalled out around 39 percent in recent years.

Candidates presented solutions as varied and complex as the issue itself. Almost all were agreed that bringing locals into the town is a key, not only because locals spend money but because a vibrant town populated with locals will, in turn, make the town attractive to visitors. All agreed, therefore, that varied forms of available housing are a priority. A second major solution was the creation of new and improved recreational facilities that would help increase the year-round liveliness of the town.

The candidates
A relatively large number of seats are open heading into this year’s Vail Town Council election. Ten candidates (including two incumbents and one candidate with previous experience) are vying for five seats, which will be vacated by term-limited Mayor Rod Slifer, term-limited council member Greg Moffet and Kent Logan, who says he will not run again. Kim Newbury and Kevin Foley, whose seats are both up for grabs, are running again. The candidates are:

Kim Newbury (incumbent)

Bob McKown

Stephen Connolly

Scott Proper

David Irwin

Susie Tjossem

Dick Cleveland (previous council experience)

Andy Daly

Margaret Rogers

Kevin Foley (incumbent)

Below are selections from the candidate’s comments:

Kim Newbury, on affordable housing:

“What I’d like to point out is that every single person up here is in favor of affordable housing and the community is behind it, because when I first got on council we had a real uphill battle … (We need to) go to the neighborhood and talk about what would fit there. You have to think about integrating it. You can’t go to the middle of Donovan Park and put a high-rise – meaning 4 or 5 stories – there.”

Bob McKown, on affordable housing:

“As owner of a deed-restricted home at Vail Commons, I am of course in favor of more being built … and perhaps a little bit more thought going into a little bit higher appreciation cap – maybe tied to the cost of living.”

Stephen Connolly, on affordable housing:

“If the assumption is that Timber Ridge is (seasonal housing), then the other (available parcels) need to be set up so that the middle class can move back in (to Vail). This is very important for our sense of community. If you look around the valley, and the world, really, the gap is widening between the have’s and the have-not’s. I don’t think civil war is going to break out here, but there is an argument that the middle class goes to Wal-Mart and that they don’t spend money here, but in fact they do.”

Scott Proper, on what the town council can do to effect change in the housing situation:

“It seems to me the town can impact the destiny of (proposed affordable housing lots) through zoning, and act as a catalyst to encourage developers to provide a different kind of housing, but to assume that we can control the destiny of these places seems like a bold assumption to me. Aside from Wendy’s, we don’t own West Vail.”

Dave Irwin, on how better communication can streamline the town’s improvements:

“We have four factions here: citizens, town government, businesses and Vail Resorts, and hopefully that equals a family. Each faction should have a representative, and we could arrange a meeting once a week … and a citizen representative would be a good thing. If we could get together and help each other out, instead of being against each other, it would be wonderful.”

Susie Tjossem, on affordable housing:

“I’m not sure the town should be building housing, but should be encouraging it. Vail Commons is a good example – for many of (its first residents) it was a starter home, and eventually they chose to move down valley, but it gave a lot of people the opportunity to be first-time homeowners.”

Dick Cleveland, on affordable housing:

“Clearly we don’t want to be in the situation Aspen was in, where they had a leak in the town water system and the nearest person who could fix it was in Rifle. We face these problems already in Vail. Affordable, deed restricted housing which allows families to come back is important.”

Andy Daly, on the relationship between Vail Resorts and the Town of Vail:

“When I first got involved in the town in 1992 (as president of Vail Associates), the town was trying to use eminent domain to take over the ski area. As you can see, relationships in a ski community tend to be cyclical. The periods where you see the most success is when those three entities are working together.”

Andy Daly, on whether or not he would recuse himself from votes involving Vail Resorts, his former employer:

“When I look at the relationship I have with Vail Resorts, I’ve been away for five years. I have a deeper understanding of Vail Resorts … as we work with Vail Resorts I think I can be very valuable, helping to develop win-win situations without any bias, and I see no need to recuse myself.”

Susie Tjossem, on on whether or not she would recuse herself from votes involving Vail Resorts, her former employer:

“I see everything as an opportunity. I thought I was doing a very good job and I found it very hurtful (to be fired), but it gave me an opportunity where I was able to travel around the United States. When we live in Vail we think of Vail as the center of the universe, but guess what, there are other parts of the country with ski resorts. I was able to travel and come back and appreciate VR and everything they do so well, so I don’t feel I have a need to recuse myself.”

Margaret Rogers, on how to fund possible upgrades to current recreation facilities:

“We have to look at funding from a much more broad context. You can look at bonding, or at TIF (Tax Increment Financing). The town doesn’t like to pass tax increases. I don’t think a mill levy is where we want to go as a community. We cannot have sub-par facilities and we have to look at some way of improving them.”

Kevin Foley, on thinking outside the box for affordable housing:

“The biggest thing would be to get with the Forest Service and see if there’s some other land surrounding the town which could be used (for housing).”

Kevin Foley, on the role of business owners in the Town:

“The business community are the ones putting money into the general fund, so the town should be listening to them. When business people come to the town they should be treated as the boss, because they ARE the boss.”

Kim Newbury, on the town’s controversial decision to build a Vegas-esque fire and water sculpture at Seibert Circle:

“I just want to say, I was the only (council member) from the very beginning who was against the Seibert Circle project.”

Scott Proper, on infrastructure and capital needs improvements:

“I know capital needs aren’t sexy but we’ve got to address them. That bridge in Minnesota is an example of that. Do we have that problem here? Probably not, but go into the golf clubhouse and smell the natural gas there, and you won’t be impressed. And step into the town council chambers and feel similarly.”

Dave Irwin, on bringing more vitality to the town:

“We keep forgetting about what makes this town, we keep talking about things; money’s going toward things. Money needs to go toward people. For example, you can’t find a place to park – we used to all have secret places to park. You take money and you do what people are saying, but the basis of who we are is the people who live and work here, without them it’s called a ghost town. Parking, make it viable for people to come back to town, because people are going to come here looking for services and they’re not going to be able to get them.”

Dick Cleveland, on what to do with the $10 million collected for the now-defunct conference center:

“The lodging tax (which provided that money) was made with the promise that we were going to bring people to Vail. That money should be used for that same purpose … it could be as simple as providing financial incentives to large groups who want to come here but have the perception that it’s too expensive.”



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