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Big decision for Vail

Don Rogers

Sure, some Rome must be burning as we write – probably in Baghdad, again. But no decision looms larger for Vail’s voters right now than whether to ratify or reject the Town Council and planning commission’s approval to rebuild Crossroads.Such an apt name, this one. An aging complex that languished even longer than Vail’s “renaissance,” stalled so long in endless talk, and finally a reconstruction plan has emerged.Funny how this last stand involving a referendum July 11 didn’t arise when two neighboring buildings with similar dimensions to Crossroads were approved with nary a ripple. Perhaps that was because the council’s power still rested in this older, presumably more mature membership. But more progressive, younger members who extracted actual public benefits from the Crossroads developer frankly did the superior job. They ensured that Vail would have a movie house when Cascade closes, along with the public plaza, ice rink, shops, restaurants, bowling alley, streetscape, improvements around the complex and even the loading-and-delivery port for the neighborhood – all tangible, lasting benefits. Unless the voters object, of course.Height and bulk on par with the Frontage Road neighbors should not be characterized as “monstrous.” The notion that the new Crossroads means all of Vail will now super-size is an obvious, and rather gross, exaggeration. The Vail Village core is not in peril. And West Vail’s Roost has scaled down through the normal government process that yielded approval of the Crossroads plan. Plans for a hotel and perhaps a conference center at the Lionshead parking structure bear watching, but it’s hard to imagine anything uglier than what’s there now. The titanic struggle here seems less about the height and bulk of Crossroads than over who calls the shots in Vail.Logically, at least from our seat, the new Crossroads is a no-brainer. It’s big but not that big, and in keeping with its neighbors. The public benefits are real. The old Crossroads has aged well past its time in this “world-class” resort, to the point of embarrassment, and finally there’s a plan to rebuild an attractive, useful complex there.So what’s the problem? A good deal of it is fear of overbuilding, including this timidity to do anything lest the franchise be lost. But that’s hardly an approach for success. Especially with Vail’s astounding record with every project it’s had the courage to do. And thankfully, Vail has chosen progress more often than not in recent years.No question, approval for Crossroads rebuilding into Solaris is controversial. The negotiations took two long years, and voters last fall sent two incumbent Town Council members packing for voting against the plan.The new majority on the council approved Solaris by a 4-3 vote this spring. Hardly a consensus. Petitions for a referendum quickly went out, and enough people signed them to bring us to Election Day next Tuesday.The organized opposition, it must be noted, does not include any council members. Their absence is obvious, considering the rank ignorance displayed in too many of the arguments against Cross-roads. These folks did not attend any of the many meetings on Crossroads; apparently did not read the studies; and given the wailing about lost views (lost long ago with every three-story building in the village), seemingly have not even walked Meadow Drive, never mind Bridge Street. Otherwise, they might have made more sensible arguments than in ads superimposing the Crossroads image on pictures of places where it or anything like it will never be built. The most sensible argument lies in comparing Vail to mountain towns like Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride. Of course, Vail has long been well ahead of these towns, even with the most “urbanized” ambiance of the bunch. We believe the mountain itself might have a little to do with that. Crossroads, Vail Plaza and Four Seasons will not change this any more than Lionshead or the Lodge Tower hard against the ski mountain did.Logic swings heavily in favor of the new Crossroads. But the meaning of the name – crossroads – is really what’s at stake.So toss out logic, at least for those desperate to hold onto control of their old town. This election is all about whether Vail steps forward brightly into the future or digs in its heels, belatedly this time.Sooner or later, the Old Guard will have to pass in favor of fresher thinking. True, we favor sooner. Vail is well on its way to reinvigoration, compared to the typical demise of resort communities that let the legends linger too long.Shall Vail dig in its heels illogically, refusing a project little different from its neighbors in size but offering actual amenities? Or step forward bravely to the success that has greeted every piece of progress the town has had the courage to build? Vail, Colorado


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