Coalition stays out of Ferry-Aron fray |

Coalition stays out of Ferry-Aron fray

David O. Williams

Despite close ties to Kaye Ferry, two Vail Town Council candidates for the nascent pro-business party, Coalition for Progress, are distancing themselves from the heated public debate between Ferry and Vail Resorts CEO Adam Aron.Incumbent council member Bill Jewitt, Ferry’s boyfriend, and retired investment banker Kent Logan released a platform last week that outlines an agenda they hope will attract two more takers in a bloc of like-minded candidates for the Nov. 4 election.The coalition was formed during a series of meetings initiated by Ferry, the founder and former president of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, who is locked in a bitter public exchange with Aron over the ski company’s sale of discount season passes.Ferry, a regular columnist for the Vail Daily, has for years been outspoken about the negative impacts of Colorado Passes on the town’s weekend parking and lagging sales tax revenues resulting from the influx of spend-thrift Front Range day skiers.But she also has steadfastly maintained that if this is the new market dynamic for Vail which in the past was primarily a destination resort then it’s purely a parking problem, one that Vail Resorts needs to take full responsibility for fixing.Prompted by recent quotes from Ferry in the Denver Post, Aron lashed out at her in a column in both The Vail Trail and the Vail Daily Friday, Aug. 22, saying she was damaging Vail’s image in the crucial Front Range market and could actually cause financial harm to the company and the community if she continues.While echoing Ferry’s sentiments that the day-skier controversy is primarily a parking issue, both Logan and Jewitt say their fledgling political coalition is neither the anti-Vail Resorts party, nor the pro-Ferry party.”I don’t think (Ferry) being involved in any way makes us the anti-VRI party,” says Jewitt, part owner of Bart & Yeti’s bar and restaurant in Lionshead. “In fact, she would tell you that most of the people in the business community don’t have half as many problems with Vail Resorts as they have with town government.”Key elements of the coalition’s platform include appointing a business czar to recruit businesses and act as a liaison with the town, exploring a charter amendment to have voters elect the mayor rather than the current system of the council appointing one, cutting the town’s operating budget and streamlining regulations so it’s easier to do business in Vail.Logan and Jewitt also want the town to interact with Vail Resorts on a more even footing, working with the ski company as equals in redeveloping the commercial cores and reinvigorating the local economy.”To me, Vail Resorts is absolutely essential,” Logan says, “but I’m not Adam’s Aron’s man and I’m not Kaye Ferry’s man. That’s why we’re a coalition; we’re trying to bring people together.”Both men say the current council lacks leadership and a cohesive vision of where Vail should be heading as a resort and a community. Jewitt lauds the ski company for pumping money into the mountain, but adds that the town has fallen far behind VR’s pace in terms of upgrading infrastructure.”We want to be able to work with Vail Resorts as peers, and that requires a council with some strength and some vision,” Jewitt says. “Vail Resorts’ job is to make as much money for their stockholders as they can, and our job is to make sure that our interests are not trampled in the process.”Whether Vail welcomes day skiers is a non-issue, Logan says, because they are coming regardless.”I find it a little off the mark all the attention that’s been devoted to it; to me the issue is how do you bring the second homeowners back more often,” says Logan, who adds that weekend parking snarls need to be solved right away.He advocates temporary use of Ford Park and some amount of free parking for workers to benefit businesses. Getting cars off the frontage road, he says, is a no-brainer because of the liability and potential for an accident. Pass prices, he adds, can be debated by Aron and Ferry.”That’s an issue between them,” Logan says. “It’s not my issue and it’s not the issue of the group we’ve put together. They’re two grown-ups and they can work it out.”For her part, Ferry, who is reserving the right to join the coalition as a candidate for one of the four council seats up for grabs, would not comment on how her ink-slinging battle with Aron might impact the coalition. Nor would she speculate on whether Aron was trying to undermine the group’s campaign efforts.She was amazed, though, by his assertion in print that her comments could impact the financial health of the company.”Did you see where he said we’re going to make the company go broke? Christ, I hope the shareholders of the company didn’t see that,” Ferry says. “It’s kind of flattering to know that I can bring a New York Stock Exchange-traded company to this kind of behavior.”And Ferry is sticking to her claims that she has never been anti-day skier: “The only problem with the Colorado Pass is the parking problems they create.”Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Bill Jensen, a Vail resident, attended three of Ferry’s meetings that resulted in the formation of the coalition. He says he was even asked to join the bloc as a candidate but declined because of potential conflicts and because he feels he can affect more positive change by other means.He agrees that parking is the problem, but also says solutions are coming and that the ski company should not have to handle the situation by itself.”Parking ideas and solutions are moving forward,” Jensen says. “It’s not stalled, and my position all along is Vail Resorts has the responsibility to move things along in working with the community to solve parking problems.”He points to the company’s $4.3 million offer to build another deck on the Lionshead Parking Structure an offer that has still not been accepted and the creation of up to 180 new public space in the West Day Lot next to the Marriott. Employees who used to park there will park at the Holy Cross maintenance yard this season, and that equipment has been moved to VR’s yard in Minturn.Another 140 new parking spaces will be created in and around the village as VR moves forward with its redevelopment plans there, Jensen says, and he adds that up to 200 cars could be parked at Ford Park this season as the ski company works with the town’s parking commission on that plan.The reason VR should not shoulder the entire burden of solving the parking problem, Jensen says, is because the ski company donated the land for the two existing structures and the town has run them ever since, using the revenues for operating costs. The town can also bond against those revenues for infrastructure improvements.Jensen doesn’t see parking as a key campaign issue this November; rather, he thinks winning candidates will be the ones who understand the need to dedicate more of the town’s tax revenues to capital projects by cutting operating costs.”No, parking will not be the issue that shapes the election,” Jensen says. Instead, he says, devoting more money to upgrading the sagging infrastructure of the town will improve the overall business environment and increase sales tax revenues even as Vail Resorts moves forward with nearly a half a billion dollars in redevelopment plans for its properties in Lionshead and Vail Village.The town charter, Jensen points out, dictates that there be 50-50 split of tax revenues spent on operating costs and capital projects. There is a provision for the council to realign that proportion, which it has done for several years running, to the point that it’s now about two-thirds to operating costs and a third to capital projects.”There’s only so much profit in any real estate project,” Jensen says. “The community and town staff’s appetite for infrastructure improvement is probably greater than the economics of these redevelopment projects.”Reaching that 50-50 split in expenditures is also a provision of the coalition’s platform.Coalition for ProgressA vision for Vail a time for constructive changeDecisions resultsI. Government responsiveness visible leadership1. Propose referendum on election of mayor directly by popular vote2. Reorganize town council Make timely decisions Designate specific responsibilities, provide direction to town staff “State of the Town” report within six months Resident “hot line” 311 phone numberII. Re-energize the town economy1. Coordinated, effective advertising/marketing program2. Re-engage second homeowners3. Prioritize programs/expenditures designed to increase near-term sales tax revenues4. Aggressively explore remedies to eliminate empty storefronts5. Establish a business improvement district6. Appoint a “business czar” to interface directly with town council and business community7. Eliminate outdated, unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy for both business and residents8. Solve the “parking problem” now9. Create a “business friendly” environmentIII. Fiscal responsibility1. Balance the operating budget to 50-50 ratio, not 60-40, and provide additional funds for an enhanced marketing program2. Cut the “fat” with compassion3. Maintain prudent projected “capital projects” and Real Estate Transfer Tax funds balanceIV. Forge the “right” working relationship with Vail Resorts1. “Front Door” and “Lionshead Redevelopment” projects are key to Vail’s future2. Work together as peers for the benefit of the community

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