Summit County, Vail Resorts agree to bunks at employee housing in Keystone
Bunk beds are a go — for now.
Summit’s Board of County Commissioners and Vail Resorts, Inc. on Tuesday came to an agreement to add additional employee beds in the Tenderfoot Subdivision in Keystone. However, the county expressed an unwillingness to comply with Vail down the road on plans to keep the bunk beds as long-term fixtures.
Under the agreement, most of the two- and three-bedroom units at the Tenderfoot complex just east of the Keystone Conference Center will become more like dorm-style living and receive bunks. The strategy was a highly-controversial plan Vail first brought to its existing employees as mandatory this past December. Once changed to an elective policy due to the uproar from its workforce, only three volunteers emerged to take on the extra beds and roommate.
In total, Vail intends on increasing the number of residents from its current 358 to 460, with the addition of 102 more beds.
The board’s decision, which was unanimous with added conditions, was not without criticism from commissioners, particularly over the length of time in which Vail will have the right to maintain the beds, the rate double-occupants will pay and the parking disturbances it may create with so many additional people in a location zoned for just 182 spots.
“I don’t think that this is a great idea,” Commissioner Thomas Davidson said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m willing to consider this because we’ve got a housing crisis right now in this county. This is something that we need to do out of necessity.”
“What if people say, ‘Forget it, I’m not going to get my dream ski job, I’m going to work in a restaurant somewhere?’” asked Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier of Vail representatives. “What if people say, ‘This is too onerous, I can’t handle living with four people?’”
Kara Bowyer, a senior land-use planner for Vail, answered by saying she did not expect such an outcome, and that the Broomfield-based company imagined again approaching the county about turning the temporary request into a permanent one. But in the meantime, the resort company would remain flexible and remove the added beds in the likelihood it is unable to fill employee positions and housing.
“We don’t anticipate that based upon the feedback we received this past season, and the overwhelming desire for housing,” she explained. “With people knowing up front … what they’re being offered, if they elect that it’s not for them, and they decide to find employment elsewhere or not come, we’ll obviously deal with that on the staffing end.”
Aside from some questions raised by commissioners about the health and safety of that many people in one space, the matter of parking remained a sticking point. Vail repeatedly presented its intentions of establishing stricter rules and enforcement through a parking management plan for both Tenderfoot employee residents and day skiers who park nearby. In addition, it would entail reducing the number of employee parking permits, providing shuttles for resident employees at a resort other than Keystone and also introducing a permit fee as a disincentive for employees bringing a car.
Calling it “an experiment,” the commissioners preserved worries that employees will end up parking cars in adjacent neighborhoods and thus brokered the requirement of changes by Vail by Dec. 25 each year if they ultimately deem the parking plan unacceptable ahead of midseason. Davidson also shared his disappointment at an extra cost to employees.
“It’s tough enough to make ends meet out here,” he said. “I really don’t like charging kids parking permit fees. I’m sort of bummed by the idea of handing your employees fees, but I’m not sure I can stop you from doing that.”
Mike Goar, Keystone Resort’s vice president and COO, tried to put the detail to rest by passionately petitioning the commissioners to understand the greater value. Vail also agreed to a stipulation that it will present its new discount pricing structure for impacted employees before moving anyone into Tenderfoot.
“I feel strongly about this,” he said, “look at these two issues on balance — beds versus we need to find a spot for cars a few days a year during peak periods. We need beds. If (issues) were to happen a few times, and we had (employee vehicles) in a (skier) parking lot, well that is not our intention, but this is still a win if we have more beds.”
Goar noted in the meeting the recent deal struck with developer Gorman & Co. for 200 workforce beds with new housing on the Vail-owned Wintergreen parcel in Keystone as the primary solution to the community’s needs. And with the 100 or so new beds at Tenderfoot, that means a total of more than 300 beds in the area.
“One hundred more beds is going to be meaningful,” said Davidson. “But Mike, I don’t think that this is something that should be permanent. We have got a crisis right now, so I’m willing to work with you guys with regards to something that’s temporary. Temporary is the key.”
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