Park City possibilities seen as Vail Resorts makes housing pledge
Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts on Wednesday said it would spend $30 million on employee housing projects across the firm’s territory, an effort meant to create options for rank-and-file workers who have long encountered difficulties in tight housing markets like Park City and Vail, Colo.
A Vail Resorts release did not provide details about the projects or a precise timeline. The release also did not detail how the $30 million would be split between the resorts the Colorado-based firm owns. Its key properties stretch from Colorado to the Lake Tahoe region of Nevada and California.
Bill Rock, the chief operating officer of PCMR, said in a prepared statement he is proud of the commitment shown by Vail Resorts. He said there are opportunities to leverage the $30 million with other resources.
"How this will play out in Park City really requires us all to roll up our sleeves and determine greatest areas of need and what potential solutions could look like," Rock said in the prepared statement.
The release from Vail Resorts says the firm "is willing to use its own land, capital or commitments to long-term lease guarantees to assist in bringing new employee housing projects to fruition." It acknowledges, though, that "many of these projects will take a number of years to develop . . ."
"The availability of affordable housing is critical for the sustainability and vitality of our resort communities and we firmly believe Vail Resorts should be an integral partner in expanding employee housing capacity," Rob Katz, the chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, said in the release. "We are hopeful this new commitment will complement our existing efforts and all of the projects that are already in the works with local government agencies."
Diane Foster, the Park City manager, said it is "great news" that Vail Resorts made the commitment to housing. She said there could be opportunities involving partnerships between City Hall and Vail Resorts. She did not provide details but noted City Hall’s interests in partnering with the private sector on housing.
Housing is a pressing issue in mountain resorts across the West as real estate prices and rents soar, forcing many rank-and-file workers out of the communities where they are employed. That has sometimes led to difficulties in attracting employees and then retaining them. Increases in commuter traffic are sometimes pinned on a lack of housing options for employees in the communities where they work.
"Are there other options to explore in Park City and Summit County? Quite possibly, and so let’s take a look at them," Rock said.
The Rock statement said the $30 million will be put toward housing beyond the units required through previous development approvals. City Hall in the late 1990s approved significant development rights at PCMR. Many of the development rights secured in that approval remain unbuilt.
According to the Park City Planning Department, the 1998 development approval requires PCMR to build housing for 80 employees. Bruce Erickson, the planning director, said City Hall’s housing rules at that time did not specify a precise number of units as the rules now do. None of the units outlined in the 1998 approval have been constructed, he said, explaining that the requirement to build the units has not been triggered. The requirement is based on the development timeline of the overall project. Erickson said there was discussion in the 1990s about locating the housing on PCMR land along Munchkin Road.
A leading housing advocate in Park City said in an interview Vail Resorts should fulfill the requirements outlined in the 1990s approval. Scott Loomis, the executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, said perhaps Vail Resorts could develop housing on land the firm owns or controls in the Park City area using some of the $30 million.
Mountainlands Community Housing Trust and the Christian Center of Park City organize the Roommate Roundup events that offer a chance for people searching for housing to find roommates. Loomis said approximately half of the people who participate in the Roommate Roundup events are Vail Resorts employees.
"They just send them to Roommate Roundup and let them land where they land," Loomis said, adding, "They can’t rely on the community to do it for them when they’re the biggest employer."
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.