Lack of affordable and workforce housing have been identified as critical issues in The Valley going back almost three decades. The problem has worsened over time rather than improved.

The issue has come to the forefront again as a subcommittee of the Mad River Valley Planning District has explored and put forth a proposal to enact a local option tax for The Valley towns. One of the specific goals of such a tax would be to earmark a long-term source of funds to be used to address affordable housing issues. The renewed focus has also led to the revitalization of the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition.

Those are great developments, but they are not going to yield results soon enough for one local business that is taking its own steps to create employee housing.

For several years, Sugarbush Resort has housed employees on site in a series of resort-owned and -rented properties. This year the resort has housed 103 employees in locations near and not so near to the resort. This provides the resort with the manpower to run lifts, cafeterias, day school, housekeeping, snowmaking and more.

Sugarbush came to the Warren Planning Commission this week with a draft plan to build housing for another 150 employees on two parcels of land it owns near the top of Sugarbush Access Road. Resort planners are suggesting three to four new housing buildings of approximately 15 rooms in various configurations of singles, doubles and efficiency apartments.

While local efforts are still conceptual, Sugarbush is in the planning stages and has had the foresight to purchase the appropriate properties as they’ve become available. That’s leadership. It is leadership that is driven by the very real need for warm bodies to fill jobs at the resort, but it is leadership nonetheless, necessity being the mother of invention.

The housing is proposed for one of the three areas in The Valley designated for increased residential density and infill development. It is proposed for parcels with water and wastewater capacity, close to public transit and within walking distance of the mountain. It is exactly the kind of development The Valley needs in 2019.

Hopefully, Sugarbush’s efforts can serve as a model for local government officials, private developers and other business owners to follow.