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Don’t stop halfway

Kaye Ferry

I got a call the other day from a Vail Town Council member soliciting my support for the new streetscape program.

It was approved Aug. 5 by a 6-1 vote to include heated streets ( Jewitt voting against). Mr. Moffet was included in the 6. However, he indicated that while he approves in theory, he will vote against the plan when it comes time to allocate funds. So I guess that means the funding vote will go 5-2. I’m not sure I understand Greg’s thought process, but it is what it is.

So the question posed to me was, “Where do you stand on this, Kaye?”

Well believe it or not, I don’t believe in fighting losing battles on issues like this. And this clearly sounds like it fits that category. But nevertheless, I do have an opinion.

I’m against heating the streets. This is a ski resort. I think our guests from Atlanta and Miami, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico come here for the snow. I came here for snow, even having traveled from Chicago. So philosophically, I disagree with the concept of eliminating snow from the streets of Vail. As an ex-council person said to me last week, next they’ll want to plant palm trees on Bridge Street to compete with the cruise lines.

That is only a philosophical viewpoint. However, that has nothing to do with the economics of the proposed project. And here’s where it gets really complicated. This council is proposing a two-year plan which north to south will cover an area from Seibert Circle to the Covered Bridge and Wall Street. From east to west, it goes from the creek to the Children’s Fountain. The decisions for the rest of the village will be left to future councils.

The cost for the two-year portion just outlined in $7.9 million, with $1.7 million coming from the general fund in 2004, an additional $1.9 million in 2005, and the balance from the real estate transfer tax fund.

So here are the questions: This council only has authority over next year’s budget, so how can they make a two-year commitment? What if the next council decides to stop? But since a long-term plan is preferable, why not go further than two years? What’s the point of only going halfway on Gore Creek Drive? How do you stop there?

Isn’t it better to make a commitment to the whole plan at once? One that would include the rest of Gore Creek Drive, Gore Creek promenade, the International Bridge and East Meadow Drive? It seems that West Meadow Drive is mostly built into the redevelopment of the Sonnenalp, Vail Village Inn and the new Four Seasons.

Now keeping in mind that I disagree with heating the streets, I do support streetscape. Absolutely. The village looks tired. And for years I have been saying that there’s a real danger in proceeding with Lionshead without also addressing some needed changes in Vail Village. We run the risk of who will then be called the ugly stepchild as many Lionshead merchants like to refer to their end of town. We don’t want it to be Vail Village. We want both ends of the core areas to have a unique and prominent role in our future. And to ensure that, both Vail Village and Lionshead face-lifts need to be addressed simultaneously.

What I further hope is that we go far enough. Streets alone aren’t enough. We also need a new attitude about paint and color choices. And to that end, Russ Forrest and I met last week with the Color People out of Denver. They specialize in conceptualizing areas through the use of paint and architectural detailing that is relatively inexpensive yet visually effective. That needs to be built into the plan as well.

The community needs to see the whole thing – what the village could look like with bricked streets, interesting lighting, colorful buildings, additional flowers and trees, more artwork and streets that create interest. All presented as one package.

To be fair, there are two advantages to heated streets. One is that we can get rid of straight lined curbs – like those along the Lodge Promenade – that have been necessary for plowing. The second is that the noise associated with early morning plowing will be eliminated. Both are significant improvements in aesthetics. But there’s still nothing more beautiful than the village after a snowfall. The white and the quiet are mesmerizing. The clomp of ski boots up the brown streets in the spring just isn’t the same.

So if were going down this route, let’s just make sure that when it’s all said and done, we’ve developed a whole package that creates an exciting ambience. This will then need the help of landlords and business owners.

It will also require a look at the antiquated and restrictive rules governing the PEC and DRB. Decisions to improve properties need to be made easy. Choices have to be streamlined. Help needs to be the mantra of the town staff. If we’re going to move forward, everyone has to buy in to the vision and then we all have to pull in the same direction, at the same time. It’s possible, but the first step is getting out of our own way.

And we also have to keep in mind our motive. It is not to simply provide a place for people to take pretty pictures. It is to create an environment that drives business. A place where everyone wants to come. Where the business climate is exciting. Where sales tax can grow.

Misc.

Got another call. This time from a restaurateur. Seems he has some “art” on his deck that is created by forming a string of little lights – not neon, which we ALL know is against the code. It also seems as though the town is intent on busting him. Said it’s unapproved signage, draws attention to his space.

We can’t figure out what rule was broken. I thought outdoor art was allowed. I also can’t see what difference these lights make as opposed to Christmas lights, which are everywhere. But more to the point, who cares? Here’s the interesting part. One of his neighbors turned him in. I thought tattling was something kids did in grade school.

Do your part: Call them and write them.

To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@ci.vail.co.us. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, vaildaily.com-search:ferry

Kaye Ferry, founding president of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily.


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