David O. Williams
Today’s election all about keeping Vail a ski ‘town’
November 6, 2007 —
This just in: the first Election Day casualty was Dick Cleveland, who fell in a construction hole and injured his hand while campaigning in town this morning. If the former Vail Town Council member wins re-election, it’s unlikely he’ll sue.
Cleveland was spotted in front of the Vail Municipal Building sporting an Ace bandage over his newly stitched hand, no doubt trying to elicit sympathy votes. Others candidates seen at town hall around 1 p.m.: David Irwin, Stephen Connolly, Margaret Rogers, Susie Tjossem and Andy Daly.
Our RealVail spies later saw Daly ducking into the Bully Ranch for a perhaps prematurely celebratory beer with Dr. Jack Eck. The Bully is expected to be the post-election watering hole of choice for winners and losers.
And when the final votes are tallied this evening at 7 p.m., MST, I can safely say that the fate of Vail as a ski town will be in the capable hands of at least three new Town Council members (see election coverage in our Real News section at some point this evening).
Two-time Mayor Rod Slifer and two-term council member Greg Moffet will ride off into the term-limit sunset, and one-term council member Kent Logan will join them of his own volition.
Incumbents Kevin Foley and Kim Newbury are vying for two of the five open seats, along with eight other candidates, including former council member Cleveland. Foley and Newbury can be excused for not being in front of town hall, as they were presumably inside during a regular council work session.
Collectively, at least three new members, and as many as five, will join Farrow Hitt and Mark Gordon in setting a course for Vail that will determine its ability to remain a ski “town” in more than just name.
What’s heartening to me as a former “down-valley” resident who moved back to Vail over the summer is that housing, and not just the employee variety, has been the dominant issue of this election season.
A few years ago it seemed as if most Eagle County residents had given up on Vail remaining anything more than just a ski resort – one of the best in the world to be sure – but a mostly empty resort during certain times of the year, dominated largely by second, third and fourth homeowners in town maybe eight to 10 weeks a year.
Now, thanks in large part to the efforts of Moffet, saving Vail’s dwindling middle class has become a rallying cry. Tough new regs requiring worker housing were passed with the goal of at least 30 percent of Vail’s workers living in town, and now finding the best way to maintain that next tier of housing is a top campaign issue.
Using development fees to “buy down” and deed restrict condos, townhomes and even single-family homes is the next big push, and I think it’s critical battle in keeping Vail vibrant with full-time residents during the many months of the year when tourists do not abound.
Vail Chamber & Business Association executive director Kaye Ferry scoffs at the notion that tourists want to visit places packed with locals, but in the same breath she’ll decry the loss of Vail businesses to Edwards, which, last time I checked is full of locals.
Vacationers may not care if beach or golf resorts are devoid of humans, but most skiers I know – and I know a lot – like their ski towns populated by local characters. Beaver Creek does fine, true, but it also hosts a lot of events that bring locals up to mix with tourists.
Vail has a done a great job of building parks and paths and an incredible trail system, and now it needs to upgrade its recreational facilities across the board and do everything it can to make sure more and more year-round residents utilize all those amenities 12 months of the year.
The candidates most vocal in championing those issues got my vote.
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