Summit County could quash Keystone Ski Resort’s request for bunk-bed extension
September 10, 2018
The Summit County commissioners are scheduled on Tuesday to take up a request from Vail Resorts seeking to keep 102 additional bunk beds for employee housing at Keystone Ski Resort for up to two more winters.
The county previously agreed to the company's request to allow 102 additional beds, creating dorm-like accommodations, at the Tenderfoot housing project starting with the 2015-16 ski season.
In the agreement, the resort was given permission to keep the bunk beds for up to three ski seasons, ending with the 2017-18 season. Vail Resorts is now looking to extend that agreement for up to two more years, but the county may be less than agreeable with officials previously warning the resort they would not allow the beds to become permanent.
In requesting the extension, officials with Vail Resorts referenced The Village at Wintergreen, a workforce housing project that's under construction. According to the request, Vail Resorts is seeking to keep the beds "until such time as 102 beds are made available at Wintergreen, but no later than the end of the 2019-20 peak season."
The move to increase the allowable occupancy at Tenderfoot was a highly contentious topic when the resort started informing its workers of the plan in December 2015.
That's when representatives of Vail Resorts met behind closed doors with Keystone Ski Resort employees to tell the workers the two-bedroom apartments housing two people in the Tenderfoot subdivision would become accommodations for four. At the same time, the resort was upping the occupancies of its three-bedroom units to as many as five people, according to newspaper archives.
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The changes were not well received by many of the employees, who were only told they'd be getting roommates a few weeks before Christmas and well after many of them thought they had solidified housing arrangements for the winter.
One disgruntled worker suggested they should go on strike during the peak of the ski season. Som of his coworkers applauded the idea, but resort representatives ignored the man's statements and moved on to other questions.
Even though the move was first brought to Vail's employees as mandatory, the company later walked back the plan to make the policy elective, largely because of the uproar from its workforce. Additionally, county officials expressed their unwillingness to comply with any of Vail Resorts' requests down the road to keep the bunk beds as long-term fixtures.
Now, the county's planning commission is recommending that the Summit Board of County Commissioners deny the extension at Tenderfoot, largely along those same lines. The reason for the negative recommendation, said senior planner Lindsay Hirsh, is that the additional beds were always supposed to be temporary and, at least for him, five seasons feels a lot less temporary than the three the county initially agreed to.
"It doesn't feel like it's temporary anymore," Hirsh said. "I don't think another extension would be in the spirit of what the original request was for."
In letters to county officials, Geoff Buchheister, vice president and general manager of Keystone Ski Resort, framed the additional beds as "yet another illustration of creative approaches" to help address the county's housing crisis.
In his letters, Buchheister argued that denying the extension would displace 102 resort employees and cause a cascade of adverse affects, not just in Keystone, but across Summit County, as those workers seek housing elsewhere. Furthermore, he suggested denying the extension would only reduce the stock of employee housing and run "contrary to the county's own plans and guiding documents."
He also noted that an extension would continue providing apartment rentals at relatively low rates, which the county's own housing needs assessment has pegged as the most in-demand but least available type of housing in the county.
While county planners are recommending against the extension, the move is being backed by Mark Mathews, executive director of the Keystone Neighbourhood Company, who authored a letter in support extending the agreement.
In his letter, Mathews wrote he's "very familiar" with employee housing issues in Keystone and the county before explaining why he thinks the additional beds are a good idea.
"The extra beds Vail Resorts is asking for, which would only be continued until such time as Wintergreen can begin housing employees, makes sense," he wrote, also referencing the workforce housing project in Keystone.
"As this program has been successful previously, it is logical to extend it as presented," Mathews continued. "With another busy winter season upon us, we can't afford to lose a single workforce bed."
The Summit Board of County Commissioners' regular meetings start at 1:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. They meet at 208 E. Lincoln Ave. in Breckenridge. Citizens may offer comments during the meetings, though they may be limited to 5 minutes each.