Vail Daily column: How not to win friends
Ryan Summerlin November 1, 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.
The Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Committee, through the activities of some of its members, became associated with championing the redevelopment of the golf clubhouse into a commercial event center, requiring the reconfiguration of the 18th hole of the golf course. The repercussions of their insistence upon the inclusion of the commercial event center in the clubhouse created a political upheaval the likes of which has not been seen since the 2005 Solaris redevelopment battle. The clubhouse redevelopment is locked, for the time being, in litigation between the town and adjacent residential neighbors.
There are those who, after seven years of restrained progress, are beginning to question whether the VLMDAC’s “health and wellness strategy” needs a change in course. The patience to wait for the economic returns of a long-term strategy may have dampened its appeal, particularly when it may involve the capital investment of millions more dollars to sustain development of the local health care industry. On the other hand, there is agreement that the economic future of Vail and Eagle County is vested in attracting and sustaining highly desired elements of that industry.
At the same time, there are those who question whether Vail is becoming “over-eventized” and whether it is time for the Commission on Special Events to scale back and emphasize quality over quantity. More recently, questions are being raised about whether either group should be favored. Both are trying to commercialize Vail and “put more heads in beds”; they just come at it from different perspectives. Their efforts, together with Vail Resorts’ new summer activities, threaten to turn Vail into a giant amusement park, and all these things are changing the character of Vail. In the push to commercialize, quality-of-life issues seemed to have been moved to the back burner.
Each budget season brings a lineup of event providers seeking public funds. In recent years, several new large scale events have been funded from the town’s reserves, which historically had been spent on capital projects rather than to cover special events. As a result, the town’s reserves, which reached a high of $69 million in the Vail Renaissance boom years, have since been drawn down to $30 million and, if the desire to make further withdrawals from the reserve succeeds, it could decline to $8 million, the minimum reserve amount recommended by the town’s financial advisers. Of long-term concern is the recent removal of a measure that restrained the percentage of operational spending in the town’s annual budget. Without that constraint, operational costs as a percentage of the annual budget in recent years has increased while capital expenditures have declined. With no public support for tax increases, each entity may well have to be content with shrinking financial support from the town as other pressing priorities inevitably eclipse their day in the sun.
Improving understanding through communication is a reoccurring theme in the community. The Town Council has led the way with the live streaming of its deliberations over the Internet and on local public television. Extending this exposure to other deliberative boards and committees of the town could give an even better glimpse into the operational complexity of Vail’s public political processes.
Opening windows to view Vail’s government at work could become a valuable tool to help educate the community’s residents and future leaders. It could open windows for non-residents so that they do not feel shut off from the process. After all is said, better government is a result of a citizenry that can take up their responsibility to become fully informed participants. Understanding through learning cannot happen if there are no windows through which to gain a better view.