By now everyone knows what happened with the national and state elections. My question, however, is what’s my local government doing? That’s a question we should all ask even if it’s not as exciting as following the games in DC.

Two weeks ago I attended the Colorado Association of Ski Towns (CAST) meeting, which Winter Park hosted in the beautiful new Headwaters facility. Officials from Winter Park and Fraser attended as well as officials from Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and out-of-state ski towns like Jackson Hole and Park City. I learned that CAST was exploring some long-term and intractable problems common to all Ski Towns, with focus on solutions to affordable housing. Some of the ideas were intriguing and offered both insight and hope that solutions might be found.   

The meeting opened with a welcome from Winter Park’s mayor, Jimmy Lahrman, who gave an excellent 10-minute overview of Winter Park’s recent history, current activities and priorities. I found myself learning interesting facts about Winter Park’s growth and some forward-looking activities that took place long before I arrived. I also saw many nods around the room as other town officials recognized their own struggles to both prosper and grow in ways that kept each town’s special character. The Mayor’s intro hit the right note to start the meeting.

The meeting covered several topics such as broadband development, an update by Sky Foulkes (WP Resort CEO) on the substantial investments at the Ski Resort, and tax issues surrounding the rental market (think Airbnb). But the most interesting session was a panel discussion on affordable housing, a subject that we have all heard about and have little clue as to how to solve. The CAST panel, as well as many in the audience, deal with this issue daily knowing it’s critical to their future success. Officials from Vail, Aspen and Winter Park all spoke about their programs and efforts in tackling this problem.

John Crone, Winter Park’s Housing Manager, focused on the town’s efforts to “keeping the downtown lights on year-round”, which means creating a stronger sense of community and providing housing support for a strong, stable employee base.  As affordable housing is built, John spoke about the process for those wanting to occupy the space and Winter Park’s lottery process. Aspen’s City Manager focused his comments on specific issues of managing their nearly 3,000 affordable units and the challenges of defining who’s eligible to apply for affordable housing.  

Vail’s affordable housing presentation was the most detailed about their “VAIL INDEED” program, which is “Not your typical Deed Restriction Program”.  Vail’s program was created to incentivize homeowners and others to “deed restrict” their properties to help Vail acquire an additional 1,000 units by 2027. A link is provided below if you want to know more about this interesting program.

So, the answer to the question about what town/city governments are doing for us is – A lot. There are also a lot of issues that weren’t on the CAST agenda, but you can always find out about your issue by reaching out to the Winter Park or Fraser town manager’s office. I’ve found them to be very open to talking about any question or topic you may have on your mind.

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