Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mountain Town News


Employee housing also rising in Vail

VAIL, Colo.—Buildings in Vail continue to grow taller and taller. The latest plan approved by town officials is an 84-foot-tall complex called Solar Vail, which is to provide housing for about 150 employees. The project is being done by owners of one of the major hotels, the Sonnenalp.

The hotel began acquiring employee housing about 20 years ago and will not need all of this new housing, hotel owner Johannes Faessler told the Vail Daily. But the newspaper notes that there is no shortage of demand for employee housing: redevelopment now underway or expected soon will create 3,615 jobs.

Vail in recent years has argued several times about how high is too high as buildings get redeveloped. Buildings in prominent locations have nudged 60 feet to accommodate more high-dollar condominiums.

But those debates have been about projects near the base of the ski area. This seven-story building, in contrast, is to be located north of Interstate 70, opposite Vail Village, and set against a steep field of sagebrush and aspen trees, blocking no view corridors.

Immigrants want to know how they can get licenses

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.—The profound disconnect between our nation's immigration laws and the economic realities of resort-based mountain valleys was on stage, front and center, at a recent meeting in Jackson Hole attended by 140 people.

The meeting, explains the Jackson Hole News&Guide, was provoked by a six-fold increase in the number of deportations during the last year. Many of those deportations are attributed to arrests for driving without licenses.

So, asked immigrants, how do you get a driver's license which is necessary to get to jobs at remote locations?

The short answer is: You can't get a driver's license if you have no evidence of legal residency. A license from Mexico is not satisfactory, and neither is an international driver's license.

"Do not waste your money on an international license," said Lt. Tom Kelley, of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

"We're here tonight because some Latinos are afraid they are treated differently than our Anglos," said Father Ken Asel, of St. John Episcopal Church. "They think certain individuals in law enforcement will harass Latinos when it's not necessary."

Police from three agencies denied that allegation. They said that Latinos who need help should seek the help of police without fear of arrest or deportation.

But the cops also said that they do enforce traffic laws -- and therein lies the peril for immigrants driving without licenses. Dan Zivkovich, the police chief in Jackson, said the first time a driver is arrested for driving without a license, he or she is given a ticket. The second time, the driver is arrested.

For some Latinos, it all ends up as a Catch 22. The economy says they're wanted, but the legal system says they're not. "Why should we continue to have these talks if the thing we're always missing is a driver's license, and as Latinos and Mexicans, we can't get them," asked Miriam Cabello.

The problem seems circular. "We recognize you care about the community and you don't want problems. We recognize that, but we cannot change the law," Zivkovich told the immigrants.

Snow still to the base at many Colorado resorts

INTERSTATE 70, Colo.—Of all the ski areas located hard along Interstate 70 or within an hour of it on either side: Arapahoe Basin. It was doing a robust business on Sunday, with cars parked in lots aside of Highway 6 across Loveland Pass.

But the somnolence elsewhere along I-70 is not for lack of snow. Snow at Copper Mountain remains good to the base area, and only small brown spots started appearing over the weekend on the bottom runs at Vail.

At Beaver Creek, there was skiable snow all the way to the base of Arrowhead, at not even 7,500 feet in elevation. In some years past, snow conditions have become marginal there even in February.

At Vail Pass last week, there were reports of people skiing the backcountry in knee-deep powder.

It was an extraordinary year. Just the same, plenty of people seem to be ready for summer.

Steel yourself for this

affordable housing idea

WHISTLER, B.C.—The American balance-of-trade deficit has become a partial answer to Whistler's need for affordable housing as it gears up for the 2010 Winter Olympics. How can that be?

Pique newsmagazine explains that trinkets from China are moved first by ship and then by train and truck across the United States. But, because of the cost of moving the shipping containers, they are not hauled back to the source.

A St. Louis-based firm, SG Blocks, saw opportunity. It uses the shipping containers to create what could be, in Whistler, 210 units of employee housing. If are enough subscribers, these and a potential additional 84 units could be erected into three-story buildings this summer and fall, and then torn down in March 2010.

Maximum rent will be $650 per month, which includes cleaning and some other costs.

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