Vail Valley Voices: Ford Park plan knocked off track
Ryan Summerlin March 29, 2013
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at www.vailhomeowners.com.In response to concerns from within the community and the Vail Homeowners Association about overdevelopment in Ford Park, the Vail Town Council with a 4-3 vote reversed their earlier decision to add phase two projects to its list of Ford Park projects enabled by the reallocation of the conference center fund. Those additional projects involved improvements to the amphitheater courtyard entrance and educational center building with an office and greenhouse for the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. The decision caused considerable upset and even anger from the proponents, who had been led along by the town’s actions of appending the additional improvements to the primary phase one Ford Park projects of ballfield improvements and amphitheater lawn-seating changes. It was said that the Vail Valley Foundation potentially complicated the issue by accepting substantial financial contributions by philanthropic donors to match the reallocated town funds to build a package of Ford Park projects sponsored by the foundation.The Vail Homeowners Association some weeks ago suggested to the Town Council that there should be a pull back on moving forward with Ford Park phase two, at least until construction was completed and the public had adjusted to the changes brought about by phase one. Further, the association asked that the current Town Council honor the promises made by the former Town Council to not allow artificial turf, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, to be installed on the Ford Park ballfields. The opposition to artificial turf on Ford Park has been a long-held symbol of excessive commercialization and urbanization by many of the community’s open space preservationists and conservationists. It is this perspective that is one of the principles at the heart of the opposition to the overdevelopment of Ford Park.The proposed phase two park improvements have run afoul of the well-entrenched community desire to preserve open space, including Ford Park and hundreds of acres spread throughout the community. The phase two proposals had been appended to the primary phase one Ford Park projects that include improvements at the ballfields and amphitheater.Over the last couple of years, the proposed second phase improvements, had, under cover of being appended to the review of phase one, been quietly moving through the approval of a very low-keyed master planning and operational revision procedure. Some of these revisions were at odds with and sought to hopscotch over earlier 1985 and 1997 Ford Park planning documents that were themselves highly contentious during their formation. The train pulling the phase two proposals came off its track, creating a rally point for political activists once preservationists began to see the extent of the urbanizing features in the construction of the phase one Ford Park project.Public attitudes are changing about town development preferences: The Ford Park matter now joins a similar urbanization-open space controversy over the redevelopment of the golf course Ccubhouse site, also being funded from the reallocated conference center fund. These two projects are part of a larger package of other major redevelopment initiatives being considered by the current Town Council, including the medical office building-new Town Hall and the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail building. All of these projects are being called into question by either political, potential legal, or economic complications.