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Crossroads; for rec district, too

Kaye Ferry

The next few weeks will indeed be busy. Particularly since two major topics will surface once again: Crossroads and the Vail Recreation District. Let’s start with Crossroads. On March 28, the Planning and Environmental Commission will review the new, and we hope, final version for their recommendation. Remember, there’s still the Design Review Board and ultimately, final approval by the Town Council.Significant changes have been made, and not all to the benefit of the community, I might add. Here’s what some of them are: The height of the entire complex has been reduced by changing roof pitch and removing stories. The tallest peak is now 87.57 feet. The building has been moved out of the setbacks on the west side. Public art improvements have been quadrupled to $1.1 million. There is no encroachment on the public right of way below grade. All of these things should move toward satisfying a lot of critics.But there was a price to be paid for these changes, and that’s where we as residents and our guests will suffer. The lowest level of parking, as well as the entertainment complex, has been removed. The “Dave and Buster” type component is now incorporated into the bowling alley, which has returned. And there are now three theaters instead of four. While it’s not all we had hoped for, let’s cross our fingers that we finally get a resolution. This old building needs to come down, and we have to get on with itThen we come to the Vail Recreation District. No question, they’re in trouble. They’ve got financial problems. They’ve got personnel problems. They’ve got perception problems. And to top it all off, there’s a movement to get them to dissolve.At the Feb. 22 rec board meeting, former Vail Mayor Kent Rose advised the board that he would be going before the Town Council on March 15 to request they initiate proceedings to dissolve the recreation district.Legally, it’s pretty clear. According to state statute, since at least 85 percent of the rec district lies within the town, the Town Council can request the district start dissolution proceedings. The alternative is through the citizen-initiated petition process.But that’s the easy part. Because the real issue is the economics of making such a move. Debt can be carried over to a new governing body, but not all of the revenues can. Taxes currently being collected can only carry over if they are tied to a specific debt. If the town becomes the new governing entity, the town voters would have to agree to impose a new tax to cover operations.And that may or may not affect the taxes currently being paid. Remember, the town boundaries and those of the recreation district are not the same. Nor do they have the have the same voter base. That means there would have to be a two-step process. Qualifying owners of property would have to vote to dissolve the recreation district, while the town’s registered voters would have to agree to a new tax to support those services if they are incorporated back into the town. Not an easy thing to explain or execute.Before we even get that far, the consensus is the recreation district will not go down without a fight, which means more money for a legal battle. So none of this is as easy as it looks at first glance.This is indeed something that needs to be looked at cautiously. And we also need to keep in mind why the recreation district was spun off from town control in the first place. Have those concerns changed? Would an intergovernmental agreement be a better place to start?Is it really incompetence or is it more that the recreation district is currently suffering from the perfect storm?Clearly, there was a huge mistake made at some point in dealing with the Dobson repairs and upgrades. Then a new board took over with much gusto and promises of salvation. Their failure to immediately deliver added to the problem and the perception of incompetence.Next came the failed support in November of initiatives for more help with debt service and golf course renovation. And in between, the huge fiasco. They received voter approval in May for a new tax to help get them out from under the Dobson debt. But when all was said and done, somebody forgot to file the necessary papers to collect the tax. So now they are faced with the colossal problem of paying off a bond without sufficient cash flow. And that final act of perceived incompetence caused a change in management and brought Kent Rose to the podium.Perfect storm? That’s probably polite. Is there an excuse for the screw-up? Sure. Is it acceptable? Not in the minds of many. The question becomes what to do now. This is just the beginning of the discussion. But it must be approached judiciously and without emotion. The financial ramifications are significant and will have long term consequences.In the end, the overriding consideration must be given to the effect on the community as a whole. Does this proposed change benefit the users? Or is it politically driven and emotionally charged? But when it’s all said and done, the voters will decide. They are they ones that created the recreation district, and they will have to be the ones to dissolve it.AHH! (that’s a written version of a sigh of relief). Thank god. Things are back to normal. Don and I disagree again. This time it’s the business guru, so I know I must be on the right track. It always makes me feel as though I’ve lost my grip on reality when our opinions coincide. At least I can rest easy knowing, once again, were on opposite sides of the fence. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-columnists or search:ferry. Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado


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