Vail: Will any work be completed at Ford Park?
Ryan Summerlin March 27, 2013
VAIL – The Vail Town Council’s decision last week to halt the applications for planned developments at Ford Park left those affected by the decision scratching their heads.
The decision meant that proposals already working their way through the town’s review process are now dead in the water, at least temporarily. Those proposals, which include building an education center at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and upgrades at the Ford Amphitheater, had cost time and money that applicants now fear has been wasted.
When the council made the decision to essentially rescind the decision it made last April, Vail Valley Foundation leaders feared all the money they’ve raised for the projects would now be gone. And unlike the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, some of the Foundation’s proposed projects are already under construction.
Vail Valley Foundation Chairman of the Board Harry Frampton told the council he feared donors would pull out the $4 million they had contributed to an overall vision – a vision now lost because the second phase projects are no longer allowed to be approved.
But Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said Tuesday she’s not entirely sure what the council’s decision means yet. She said Foundation leadership has alerted its donors about the council’s decision and asked them for some time to sort through what it all means.
“We said let’s just take a step back and take a breath,” Folz said. “We’ve asked our donors to do the same.”
Because phase one construction is already underway, it’s a major challenge for the Foundation should its donors want to pull their money out if phase two is off the table. The Foundation doesn’t have millions in the bank to cover the costs, Frampton said, inferring that the council’s decision puts the completion of phase one projects in jeopardy.
Folz said the Foundation was very open about the way it was conducting its fundraising. The town of Vail knew it was pitching the Ford Amphitheater upgrades as one package, not as a phase one and phase two, although that’s how construction would occur.
And ironically enough, all of the things that appealed to donors “really are in the phase two,” Folz said.
Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler said he expects phase one to continue unaffected by last week’s decision.
“I can’t speak for Harry (Frampton) but I’m confident that the Amphitheater and the park improvements will all be completed for the start of the summer activities,” Zemler told the Vail Daily via e-mail. “It is possible that a few planned improvements, such as brick pavers, could be delayed until the fall, but won’t be decided for a weeks yet as we review all the budgets and the remaining work yet to be done.”
Still concerning for the Foundation is the time frame in which – if ever approved – the phase two projects could move forward. The decision last week means approvals likely won’t happen in time for a fall 2013 construction start, and the Foundation would not begin construction the following fall because it would end up coinciding with the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek.
“We really feel very strongly that we would never put the town in a position to have Ford Park under construction in any way during the winter of the Championships,” Folz said.
The council’s decision stemmed from backlash from local residents after the council approved amendments last year to two previous planning documents for Ford Park. The 2012 amendments weren’t in line with the original plans for development at Ford Park, opponents claimed.
One of those opponents, Josef Staufer, relates the issue to Central Park in New York City. If the council there approved every plan to “improve” the park, it would have been built over two and a half times, he told the council.
“We already have a Ford Park, a Betty Ford Alpine Garden, Ford Amphitheater, Gerald R. Ford Memorial Highway and a Gerald R. Ford Post Office,” Staufer wrote in a letter to the Vail Daily. “I think even Jerry Ford would agree that we have done enough to recognize the importance of his contribution to Vail. Surely we can do more for his legacy than building on every square inch of the park named in his honor.”
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.