Ferry: Vail’s mixed bag of gifts
Vail CO, Colorado
Santa came early this year. At least for the owners of a property in Vail Village. The Vail Town Council was also feeling the Christmas spirit, practicing the adage it’s better to give than receive. But let’s back up a bit.
On October 16, 2007 the previous town council heard a proposal from the owners of a condo in the Bell Tower Building. That’s the building just west of the Children’s Fountain in Vail Village. The request was to allow the owners to “trade” two deed-restricted employee housing units that they own in their building for a condo in East Vail, thus making it possible to add that space to their current unit. They proposed “to relocate” the employee housing with an exchange of 597 square feet in the Village for 1,191 square feet. in East Vail. So far, so good.
That is until the question of finances was raised. “Just how much is the East Vail unit going to cost?” The answer was $420,000. So I got busy with my calculator. Let’s see. The average cost of Village real estate is conservatively $2,500 per square foot. Hmmm. I did the math ” 597 square feet times $2,500 comes to $1,492,500.00.
Now I’ll admit, my degree was not in economics. Or real estate. Or math. But I ask you. Does that seem like a good trade to you? A $420,000 condo in East Vail for prime space on Gore Creek Drive in the heart of Vail Village with a market value of $1,492,500?
So I re-did the math. How about $2,000 per square foot? Well, that comes to $1,194,000. Still not there. I had to go all the way to $703.52 per square foot before I got to the number that worked in this equation.
But all was well. The old council sent them packing. Come up with a better deal or no deal.
So back they came on December 18 before a new council but with still the old plan. Just a lot more fast talking. Something about how much it was going to cost to “update” the space. How expensive it was going to be to incorporate these 597 square feet into their current unit.
And I admit it, I got a little sarcastic at the podium. The very thought of their hardship was bringing tears to my eyes. The idea that the proposal was even being considered was shocking to most of us in the back row, the place where eyes typically roll.
But as I said. Santa was there with his helpers, a.k.a. the Vail Town Council. And it was approved.
So foolish me. I thought our elected officials were supposed to be the guardians of our assets. As my father used to say “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”
I will point out that the only sense came from councilmen Kevin Foley and Mark Gordon. The rest of the council and the staff thought they’d struck a good deal. Go figure.
But wait. I forgot the best part. See, the owners buy the East Vail unit for $420,000. As part of the “buy down” program, the town requires they sell it to a qualified employee for $178,650 giving them a net out-of-pocket of $241,350. It just gets better. Because now we’re down to $404.27 per square foot, which is just plain nuts to say nothing of unconscionably irresponsible of the elected officials.
So here’s my offer. Next time there’s 597 square feet available in the heart of Vail Village for $241,350, call me. I’ll give you cash on the spot, no questions asked. But get out of the way because there’ll be a stampede.
Then there was Timber Ridge. I’ll tell you what. Open Hillwood only thought they’d been put through the mill with the old council. That was a cake walk. The new guys want answers. Are we getting the most out of this deal? Can we further maximize the site? What’s the time line? Has anyone seen the proforma?
And I’ll continue to oppose the sale of one of the biggest assets in the town and the last large piece of developable real estate available ” 10 acres. We were able to get Middle Creek completed with a 50-year lease. Oh sure, we’re told the developers won’t touch the deal unless they own the land. So look for another developer. Once we lose control of this property, we can never get it back. And the only way to make sure that it’s going to be used to house employees forever is to own it forever.
And just in case you thought we weren’t having enough fun, the town council adjourned and reinvented themselves as the Vail Reinvestment Authority. Of course this didn’t happen until after 10:30 p.m. so you can imagine the mood at that point.
So in filed Bob Cat and the Broomfield boys, as they have come to be known. They were summoned once again to review the final document of an “agreement with the Vail Corporation and the Town of Vail regarding employee housing obligations in connection with the Arrabelle project”.
The discussion started at 11:30 a.m., adjourned at noon and reconvened at this late hour.
Proposals were made to change a document that had been given by the town to the ski company one week before. A document that was an edict when it was delivered, was agreed to by Vail Resorts and was now being altered.
Katz didn’t take it laying down, and rightfully so. It was pretty much “how dare you, at this late date!”
I understand the question raised but it was too late. Inspections were scheduled for the next morning. So once again, we got caught with our pants down because we didn’t do our homework correctly. Councilwoman Margaret Rogers was right but the timing was wrong.
Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail email@example.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Commentary” or search for keyword “ferry.”
Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a biweekly column
for the Daily.