Barking over parking
A campaign initiated by small business owners in Vail seeks to reinstate the popular Free After 3 and 90-minutes free parking plans.
“If you take Free After 3 away, you’ll be sending a bad message,” says Dave Gorsuch, co-owner of Gorsuch, a sporting goods store in the Vail Village.
Originally intended to drive business to Vail, the former plans often were abused by local employees – making parking spots scarce when out-of-town visitors would gladly plunk down $12 a day. As much as $250,000 is lost per season, according to town parking statistics, because employees were parking for free as early as 1:30 p.m. then moving their cars every 90 minutes.
The business community’s opposition to a new parking plan – which would make parking free for only 30 minutes and push free afternoon parking back to 5 p.m. – isn’t news to Town Council members, who received 58 voice-mails from local merchants, who say there is ample time to reconsider the new plan, scheduled to go into effect Thanksgiving weekend.
Less free parking for local employees and local clients, they add, will translate into less goodwill towards Vail.
Council members have reluctantly agreed to reconvene the parking task force within the next two weeks to go over changes suggested by the merchants.
“A dollar doesn’t seem to be very much,” says Kaye Ferry, owner of The Daily Grind coffee shop and president of the Vail Chamber and Business Association. “Where a dollar does make a difference is with very quick errands – someone running up to the Rucksack to buy a birthday card or stopping in the Daily Grind to buy a pound of coffee.”
Robert Aikens, manager at Verbatim Booksellers in Lionshead, says the new parking passes – which aim to encourage locals to park outside of the two parking structures on busy weekends – are too expensive and will only prompt locals to go elsewhere.
“Now is not the time to push anybody away,” says Aikens. “Especially with this year’s drought and no one knowing what this winter will bring.”
“Most people that work in retail don’t make $400 a week,” he says, adding that new employee parking passes from $50 to $450 will make free parking in Avon and Edwards look like a valuable job benefit.
The new plan offers several employee-geared parking options, starting at $50 for a season-long satellite parking lot pass and up to $450 for a season parking pass, restricted on weekend mornings and garnished with a $200 ski pass discount.
The Vail Parking Task Force estimates that with the new plan, the town stands to collect an additional $380,000 in parking fees on top of the $2.2 million the town collects per paid parking season. The new plan will cost the town $360,000, however, for new meters and gates – some of which would not be needed if the merchants get their way.
Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin served on the parking task force along with councilmen Dick Cleveland and Ludwig Kurz and merchant representatives Nicole Ewing-Hoffman and Kenny Friedman. McLaurin says reconsidering the approved plan would likely cost the town.
“One of the biggest factors that is driving this plan was the metered shoppers parking,” he says, adding that meters already have been ordered.
The paid parking plan has been endorsed by Vail Resorts, which plans to spend up to $250,000 on discounted ski passes to encourage locals to make room for paying visitors.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.